MILAN European Union antitrust regulators are looking into a tender process organized by the Italian government to build out an ultra-fast broadband network in parts of the country, a spokesman for the Commission said on Monday.
"The Commission is in contact with the Italian authorities on this issue. This does not in any way prejudge the opening of any formal investigation," the spokesman said, commenting on a document Reuters had viewed earlier.
Rome, as part of its plans to roll out fast Internet nationwide, is running tenders to deploy networks in so-called "white" areas that would not normally be economically viable.
Phone incumbent Telecom Italia took part in the first tender but then withdrew and said it would invest its own money in developing a network in the areas.
A source close to the matter said Telecom Italia had asked the EU watchdog to look into a possible breach of EU state aid rules and the way the tenders were awarded.
The government, which has made the development of a broadband network a top priority, has enlisted the help of state-controlled power utility Enel to lay fibre-optic cables.
Enel unit Open Fiber won the first tender launched by state-owned Infratel and has said it is confident of winning the second.
(Reporting by Stefano Rebaudo and Francesco Guarascio, writing by Stephen Jewkes; editing by Agnieszka Flak)