Italian City Connected to the Net For Free

Seventeen-hundred families living in the city of Bologna will
soon be provided free Internet service, as part of a unique test to
introduce new public services into Italian homes, city officials announced

The test, through a collaboration of the City of Bologna and
Telecom Italia, will begin in January and run for 18 months.

“As city officials, our principle objective is to utilize modern
technology to make the life of citizens easier,” explained Leda Guidi,
coordinator of the network program. “If someone does not have time during
the day to come to the city hall for a birth certificate or other document,
for example, or if they need to pay city offices for gas, electrical, or
water services, they can now do it from their home.”

To get a true impact on the ease or difficulty of incorporating Internet
into the daily lives of Bologna’s population, 1,000 computer owners
will be given free access to the Internet by Telecom Italia. The remaining
700 test families will receive free decoders for WebTV access. The concept
of utilizing WebTV came about as a result of the growing ease in Internet
technology through this means and the fact that citizens could utilize
telephone lines and television sets, rather than PCs.

“We wanted a segment of the test market to be non-computer users,” says
Guidi. The advantage of WebTV is that it does not require users to be

The City of Bologna was not randomly selected for the test. Telecom
Italia’s Internet backbone and fiberoptic network is perhaps better in this
center than any other in city in Italy. In addition, this university
capital maintains one of the highest populations of Internet users, with
approximately 25 percent of the population linked to the Web through 33 ISPs.

The average test market consists of families with two or more members
between the ages of 30 and 50 years. The city, however, is not limiting its
Internet drive to test families, however.

To expand the potential market
for both PC-based and WebTV Internet, the Italian chain-store
Coop has been contracted to selling decoders and Telecom Italia
subscriptions for WebTV service. To enhance online purchases and make the
payment process easier, the City of Bologna has also established an
agreement with the local Cassa di Risparmio bank, whereby citizens can
obtain a free credit card limited exclusively to online sales.

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