Colombia’s Ministry of Communications (MoC) says it plans to launch the first tender for its 2004 Compartel universal access programme in March. The six-year concession to provide internet access for 3,000 educational establishments, 624 municipal buildings, 120 hospitals and 30 military bases, has a budget of COP140 billion (USD53 million). The state has budgeted COP215 billion for Compartel this year and plans to complete two further projects, one of which will invite voice telephony operators to submit applications for assistance in expanding and updating their infrastructure. In 2005 the MoC will conduct phase three of its rural telephony programme, allocating upwards of COP35 billion for improving services in remote areas, and a further COP5 billion for other basic telephony upgrade works. The budget is more than double the COP112 billion reserved for Compartel in 2003, which saw the installation of 902 rural lines and a contract to Gilat for the installation of 500 community access internet centres.