On Feb. 22, 2007 Francesco Rutelli, Italian minister for cultural assets and Prime Minister’s “number two” proudly announced www.italia.it launch. The website – costing approx 45 MILLIONS Euro – has been presentend by politicians (including Ermete Realacci, the head of Legambiente – the biggest environmental NGO and environmental political lobby in Italy) as a true “giant step” in promoting Italy “image” around the world.

The result, as everybody can experiment on his own, is just a crappy website, as the Italian online community quickly (and sadly) discovered. And at what cost!

Italian Government: the Biggest Gamblers (or: money doesn’t smell)

Italy is a strange country. The State cares of public health by telling everybody that “smoke kills”, while still holds the legal monopoly in the tobacco manufacturing market.

Following the same “we care” apprach, online gambling has been labeled as THE eviliest thing, able to corrupt young generations, waste worker wages, endanger the public security. Criminal court everywhere in Italy are full of trials where the defendants are charged to having organised “illegal betting services” by opening internet points from where people was privately playing with regular British and other EU-based bookmakers.

Despite the EU Court of Justice said that Italy was wrong in discriminating legally established EU bookmakers, the Corte di cassazione – Italian Supreme Court – ruled that (online) gambling must be punished since endagers the Order of the State. But all of a sudden, these concerns disappeared.

Legge finanziaria 2007 “slightly” amends sect. 38 of Decree 223/2006 by legalising – with a few restrictions – the very same online gaming activities that up to a few weeks before were accused of being “families disgregator”. How was that possible?

Easy: just pay the Government a 3% “gambling tax” on every bet, and all the problems and concerns just disappear. At the end of the day – I can imagine the politicians’ defense – we did our job: we told you not to play. If you don’t follow our advice…the choice is yours!

TLC liberalisation in Italy. When the tail wages the dog

Sect. 1 para 3 of the Decree Law “Bersani” (named after the ministry who drafted the text) states that users must be free to shift from an ISP to another at their will, just paying anything but the “documented cost” suffered by the ISP (for instance, the remaining cost of the yearly-leased ADSL line). This provision has been celebrated as an effective way to protect consumers, no more forced to pay penalties for their own freedom of choise.

The gov’t seems unaware of a side effects of this decree: big telcos will likely retain from asking for these costs, while small and medium ISP’s – for obvious reasons – don’t. What is likely to happens, then, is that the latters will be cut-out from the user-mobility market, since nobody would subscribe a service, knowing that he have to pay for moving to another provider.

The final chapter of this tale is that – just matter of time – only the big operator will continue to stay on the market, while other players may rest in peace.