Telecom carrier CenturyLink will roll out broadband to 1.2 million U.S. homes and businesses in rural areas, using US $506 million from the Federal Communications Commission.
In addition, AT&T has accepted nearly $428 million from the FCC to roll out broadband to 1.1 million homes and businesses in 18 states, the agency announced later Thursday. States covered in the AT&T deployment include Texas, Florida and Ohio.
CenturyLink's six-year project, expected to start early next year, covers rural areas in 33 states, including large parts of the Midwest, West and Southeast, in addition to other areas. States included in the deployment include Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Funding comes from the FCC's Connect America Fund (CAF), supported by a monthly charge on U.S. telephone bills. CAF targets rural areas broadband providers have traditionally avoided because of the high cost of providing service.
The providers' acceptance of the funds "represents a huge investment in broadband" for their rural customers, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.
CenturyLink declined the funding, made available on a statewide basis, in the states of California, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Wyoming. Under CAF rules, funding for rural broadband deployment in those states will now be under a competitive bidding process in which broadband providers can bid to serve all or parts of the areas.
CenturyLink may still participate in that bidding process in those states, the company said in a statement.
Under the CAF rules, the broadband service must offer download speeds of at least 10 Mbps.
Over the next six years, CAF will provide more than $10 billion to expand broadband networks throughout the rural U.S. Carriers receiving CAF support must build out broadband to 40 percent of funded locations by the end 2017 and 100 percent by the end of 2020.