FCC Pays Carriers $9 Billion To Boost Rural Broadband

Hoping to boost broadband deployment in rural parts of the country, the Federal Communications Commission is paying $9 billion to 10 Internet service providers that have promised to build out their networks.

The money will be paid over six years. Two of the larger ISPs participating in the program include AT&T (which will receive $427 million the first year and $2.5 billion total) and Century Link ($505 million the first year and $3 billion total). Other fund recipients are Cincinnati Bell, Consolidated, Fairpoint, Frontier, Hawaiian Telecom, Micronesian Telecom, Verizon and Windstream.

The FCC anticipates that the telecoms will roll out high-speed broadband to almost 7.3 million rural consumers in 45 states and one territory.

“Today we are taking a significant step forward in narrowing the rural-urban digital divide,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “The financial support provided by American ratepayers through the Connect America program is an investment in the future of our rural communities that will pay dividends for all Americans for years to come.”

The FCC said in its most recent broadband report that around one in three people living in rural areas can't download material at speeds of at least 10 Mbps. That's slower than the FCC's current definition of broadband as download speeds of at least 25 Mbps. The majority (53%) of rural Americans don't have access to broadband at that speed, compared to just 8% of urban Americans.

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