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Broadband or Not, Italy Is In The Stone Age When It Comes to Internet Access

by Andrea Di Maio  |  November 9, 2009  |  4 Comments

Over the last few days, while the Italian government is working on its budget, part of the political debate has focused on the apparent lack of 800 million euro for investments in broadband which had been announced earlier.

While I have no strong feeling either way, I thought I would share a Facebook message I got earlier today from my Italian friend Ugo, who has been living in Germany for many years :

Dear Andrea,
I just had a recent experience about Italy and the Web which I wanted to share with you due to your experience in this field and in eGov.
I did a 10 day trip from Germany to the Netherlands, Italy, Slovenia and back.
Arrived in Leiden (NL) I had WiFi access immediately, at no cost and with no restriction from anywhere, even in the taxi waiting at the traffic lights.
Then I went to a conference in Venice (I): no access to available WLans, the host had to install a specific Wlan for the conference participants, each of us had to give credentials before getting a personal access code for single use, and after 6 pm the Wlan was down since the tech-guys went home (no joke). In the hotel no WLan but LAN with same ID procedure and some Euros each half hour. In both cases I could NOT synchronize with my mail server, since they configured the access in such a way that this was not allowed!! So I had to log onto my provider’s mail system to read/send mails!. After some days there I went to Caorle (50 km from Venice), where in summer there are 8 internet points (4 of which wireless). In winter…. only 3! Further they are expensive and with opening times like shops (closing at 18:00, sat/sun). Incidentally, everyone I met at those internet points was very angry for having to make photocopies of personal documents, and register time and computer or access code connected to it: nice thought, consume paper for being allowed into the digital world
Then I went to Slovenia… Hotel…WiFi running everywhere for free. I was in 2 bars + 1 Institute… free WiFi without access restrictions anywhere…
Is the Italian Government aware that ARPA started 40  years ago, in 1969? The Illusion of being able to control content by restricting access is complete nonsense. Who is making such rules? Are they ever traveling themselves? The only result is that Italy increases the gap to the 2nd to last country and produces angry and Web-illiterate (young) people.

It is ironic that Ugo had so many issues in a city like Venice, which praises itself for having a world class WiFi infrastructure for all citizens. Maybe, as a visitor, he was not seen as a customer.

While supporters of broadband investments will read this as a clear proof that those investments are required, one interpretation is that – does not matter how much bandwidth is available – a country and a culture that do not value customer service is unlikely to use it very wisely.

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Category: europe-and-it  

Tags: broadband  italy  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio


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  3. david osimo says:

    It is all due to the Pisanu law. But what is astonishing is that italian people don’t feel this as a untolerable limitation. Some people also say the Italian government is not so keen on the web because it prefers TV…
    Anyway, this morning I accompanied by daughter with her class to do rollerskating in the middle of nowhere of the Flemish countryside, and in the Ice-skating ring there was free open wifi!

  4. […] ask people the ID card and register them before giving them the wifi password. Andrea di Maio blogged on this as well.The Pisanu law was made in the aftermath of 9-11 as a way to track down possible terrorist […]



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