Italy's innovation minister plays down single network plan

MILAN, June 6 (Reuters) - Italy’s innovation minister Vittorio Colao on Sunday played down the idea of creating a single ultra-fast broadband network, a project supported by the previous governing coalition.

Until a new government was sworn in earlier this year, Rome had been working on a national network by merging small broadband operator Open Fiber with the fixed access network assets of Telecom Italia (TIM).

Last month, however, speculation emerged about doubts inside the new coalition headed by former European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi over the plan to speed up fibre rollout across the country.

Colao, a former CEO of telecoms group Vodafone, told a conference that the government should be the “coach” of private operators involved in creating the ultra-fast broadband network and avoid emerging as the most important player.

“We should let small and large operators find their own balance, if players don’t want to play then the state will have to intervene, but we have to guarantee the interest of citizens not of specific companies,” Colao said.

Rome, through state lender CDP, is the No. 2 shareholder in TIM and is set to win control of Open Fiber. (Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Alexander Smith)