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Mexico considering $1.5 billion investment to boost internet access nationwide

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Lopez Obrador attends daily news conference at the National Palace

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico is considering investing around 30 billion pesos ($1.50 billion) to boost internet connectivity, especially in isolated rural areas, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday.

"You can't even talk on the mobile phone, let alone (use) the internet (outside cities)," he told a news conference. He said millions of Mexicans still do not have access to mobile coverage or internet and fresh investments were needed.

About 66% of households in Mexico have internet access, according to the latest official data from IFT, the country's telecommunications regulator.

This week IFT said that one in five indigenous people, who largely live in remote areas, still do not have access to any mobile service technology, or about 2 million people.

In 2016, the government tasked telecommunications company Altan Redes with developing a wholesale national mobile network that promised 92.2% coverage by January 2024, a deadline that was later extended to 2028.

However, the company filed for bankruptcy last year, prompting the state to bail it out and become its majority stakeholder.

Last month, the Mexican president said the takeover of the so-called "Shared Network" would help secure internet access in all towns and offer free Wi-Fi in public spaces.

"[Altan] got 70% of the way with building the general Wi-Fi network, but it didn't reach the last mile. That was a start, and we're going to amplify it," the president said on Wednesday.

He promised government handouts to help people afford the internet.

"We want everyone, especially those most remote and especially students, to have access to the internet," he said.

($1 = 19.9412 Mexican pesos)

(Reporting by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Howard Goller)