The Colombian government secured an investment of US$875 million from major telcos in its effort to bring internet access to as many as 12 million people living in the country’s remote countryside.
Around US$255 million will be invested immediately to connect more than 1,300 locations, according to ICT Minister Mauricio Lizcano. The agreement was signed by Claro, Movistar, Wom, Tigo and the Asomóvil union.
The new investments will expand internet coverage from 60% to 85% of the population in Colombia.
Reiteramos el compromiso del #GobiernoDelCambio para mantener la operación de Tigo.
Además, desde Medellín, lanzamos el… pic.twitter.com/MNyjZh6Php
— Mauricio Lizcano (@MauricioLizcano) September 18, 2023
Colombian law requires telecom companies to expand coverage towards rural areas, even if it is not profitable, in exchange for paying spectrum fees. The government also requires telecom companies to provide broadband internet to all towns with over 30,000 residents.
Politicians in Colombia have been promising free internet to schools for a long time, but private telecom operators are reluctant to expand their services beyond major cities like Bogota and Medellin because they fear losing money.
One of the major carriers, Tigo, is already feeling the pain of these investments. The company faces the possibility of shutting down its mobile service altogether due to high debt. Tigo urgently needs US$150 million to fix its balance sheet, according to local media reports.