Out in the countryside, in small villages all over Italy, we would see satellite dishes or small flat antenna units mounted on roofs that picked up the signals from either a satellite hovering above in space, or a tall tower in the nearby local area--a Wide Area Network of sorts.
Even when there is a decent connection, the WiFi system inside homes and hotels can be terribly slow with buggy connections. The reason is the thick, stone walls that most structures are made out of. It's a simple task to send WiFi throughout the three floors of my American 1868 vintage brick and timber home (and much more so in standard stud framed and dry-walled track homes), but WiFi signals don't pass through 1-2 foot thick stone walls and 2" thick clay tile floors easily.
Boosting the quality, stability and speed of broadband internet service is needed by most regions of Italy, not only for the locals, but for tourists who might be used to more reliable internet connections. It would also be a boon to business travelers, saving money to avoid cell phone data charges for mobile hot-spot use.
In 2012, it was reported that Italy ranked dead last in Europe when it came to truly high speed broadband coverage. In the rest of Europe, anywhere from 27% to 54% subscribe to services with speeds at 30Mbps or above. Italy? Only 14%.
The Italian government is at long last partnering with telecom companies to fix the problem. The project is called Fiber for Italy project initially will reach 20 million people in Italy's 15 largest cities, followed by another 138 cities by 2018. The government has also started the Italia Digitale project, which will provide at least 50% of Italians with high-speed internet access by 2020. They even plan on extending the resulting fiber-optic network to rural areas, hopefully putting an end to tower and satellite based systems.
The Fiber for Italy project has three main objectives: implementing a digital national register, a database of all of Italy's citizens (will Grande Fratello be watching?); introducing a system that allows public sector suppliers submit invoices digitally; and creating a single digital identity for Italians to use when they interact with the state—no more separate logins for dealing with different government services.
Italians and tourists alike might have to wait for a few more years, but barring an Italexit, the collapse of the Euro, and with a real financial commitment (one company's bid is almost one billion dollars), perhaps high speed fiber-optic technology will finally arrive in the land of gelato, Michelangelo's David, pasta and pizza.
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