Piedmont: Stimulating the regional economy through broadband access

The Region

Piedmont is Italy’s second largest region, covering an area of about 25 000 km2, of which 43.3 % is mountainous (Piedmont is surrounded by the Alps on three sides). Piedmont Region manages the regional broadband development programme called WI-PIE.
Among the implementing bodies, CSI Piemonte is a public consortium that includes the Region of Piedmont, and whose services are entirely dedicated to the different departments of the regional administration. In particular, CSI Piemonte is in charge of Piedmont’s information systems and infrastructure.

The Challenge

The particularities of Piedmont’s landscape with its extensive mountainous area meant that, in 2004, broadband connectivity was available to 81 % of the population, over only 32 % of the territory. The region decided to take measures to bridge this long-term digital divide most efficiently and cost effectively, while maintaining a technologically neutral angle and ensuring no overlapping on the market.

The Satellite Solution

The regional programme “A wireless territory”, operational since 2004, has made use of the most modern satellite telecommunication systems and wireless technologies to offer broadband connectivity to local authorities and their associations, schools, mountain and hill communities.

The Results

43 local authorities and local authority associations applied for funding from the Region to implement satellite broadband, from the beginning of the “Wireless territory” programme (2004-2005), for a total value of €7 million. By 2009, 50% of public mountain huts along the Piedmont part of the Alpine Way, without previous access to broadband, were covered. While users showed some reticence to the technology in the first place, satellite broadband soon proved a good solution in the broadband mix, and a first-choice for secluded areas, like the mountain huts. The economic impact of broadband availability is considerable, since it often made the difference as to whether local SMEs in inaccessible areas stayed in business or not.
Following the aforementioned good results, the Region recently launched an initiative to allow people and businesses, living in those residual areas under served or not covered at all, to get a satellite broadband connection. As a matter of fact tender has been issued giving a grant for the purchase and installation of satellite ground equipment.