Italy's economy ministry wants independent ultra-fast broadband network, says source

FILE PHOTO: Optical fiber cables for internet providers are seen running into a Enel Group server room in Perugia, Italy, June 23, 2017. Picture taken June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s economy ministry wants a single, independent ultra-fast broadband network that is independent of former phone monopoly Telecom Italia, granting equal access to all market players, a treasury source said on Sunday.

The state would keep a strong role in the new company, the source added.

The Italian government is trying to negotiate a deal between Telecom Italia (TIM) and Open Fiber, which is jointly owned by state lender CDP and utility Enel, to merge assets and create a single national champion. But TIM is reluctant to accept less than 50% of any network.

The Treasury source said the ministry was open to the participation of qualified institutional investors in the new network unit.

Earlier this month, TIM postponed to Aug. 31 a decision on the sale of a minority stake in its last-mile grid to U.S. investment firm KKR.

Under the Treasury-sponsored plan, the single ultra-fast broadband network operator could initially be majority-owned by TIM if the value of the assets folded in the new player justified it, a person close to the matter told Reuters.

The broadband champion should maintain a network ownership structure open to new players, the source added.

Reporting by Angelo Amante and Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Alex Richardson