The Italian Competition Authority (Autorita Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato, AGCM) is set to open an investigation into Telecom Italia (TIM) for possible abuse of its dominant position in the broadband internet market. The government is unhappy with TIM’s plans to deploy fibre infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas of the country – so-called ‘white’ areas – after the state has run tenders to choose providers to deploy networks in those same areas using public funds.
TIM entered the first phase of tenders, but complained that the terms did not favour it as an incumbent operator. The first phase contracts were subsequently won by Enel’s Open Fiber unit. TIM then opted not to take part in the second stage of the tender process, announcing that it would instead go ahead with its own rollouts. Open Fiber is thought to be in line to also win the second round of tenders, with a decision to be announced later this month. The third and final set of regional tenders is due to begin later this year.
The AGCM will now investigate whether TIM’s stance has obstructed the tender process by launching legal challenges to the terms and then announcing its own rollout which will run parallel to the state-backed deployments and therefore jeopardise their economic viability. The telco had previously said that it would not be installing fibre networks in rural regions that could not guarantee a return on investments, prompting the government to move ahead with its own plans. Reuters reports that the regulator will also look at whether TIM has employed anti-competitive commercial tactics by attempting to pre-emptively win and lock in customers in the white areas. TIM maintains that it has acted in compliance with all regulations.