TIM gets fined for rigging Italian fibre market, will appeal

The Italian Antitrust Authority (AGCM) reckons operator TIM acted to restrict competition in certain parts of the domestic fibre market. TIM disagrees.

We’re relying on Google Translate here, as the decision hasn’t been published in English yet, but the decision refers to ‘white areas’, which are parts of the country that offer relatively poor returns on fibre investment. TIM had initially decided it couldn’t be bothered with them, it seems, but then changed its mind when competitors stepped in with a bit of help from the tax payer.

“The Authority has ascertained that TIM has hindered the holding of tenders, launched under the Government’s ultra-broadband national strategy, for the support of investments in ultra-broadband network infrastructures in the most disadvantaged areas of the national territory ( so-called white areas),” said the translated AGCM announcement.

“In particular, TIM decided to make an unprofitable modification of the coverage plans of these areas during the tenders and at the same time undertook legal initiatives instrumentally aimed at delaying the same.” Accordingly TIM is being fined €116 million.

TIM doesn’t see what the problem is since it has already sorted all this stuff out with the Italian telecoms regulator AGCOM, and accordingly will appeal. “AGCM’s decision also raises concerns, not least because the Italian telecoms watchdog AGCOM has taken an entirely different view of TIM’s alleged anti-competitive behaviour,” said the TIM response. “In fact, AGCOM has on several occasions dealt with the issues discussed in the preliminary investigation, adopting specific regulations on most of the cases covered by the provision.

“The main objection of the decision refers to an investment project in market failure areas (so-called White Areas), considered by AGCM to be abusive towards Open Fiber which should build a fibre infrastructure to the homes with public resources (as recalled by the AGCM), which though did not take place as also highlighted by several institutional offices.”

It all seems fairly technical and the size of the fine by itself is not that significant. Having said that, if TIM doesn’t think it has done anything wrong and the regulator agrees then still got to hurt. The most intriguing part of this is that it seems to pitch the regulator in direct opposition to the antitrust authority and it will be interesting to see which prevails.

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