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Feds Give AT&T $428M for Rural Broadband Expansion

Money from the FCC's Connect America Fund is intended to help close the digital divide in rural communities.

(TNS) -- AT&T said Thursday it will be expand the availability of its broadband Internet service to 1.1 million American homes with the $427.7 million the telephone giant will get in annual, ongoing support from the federal government's Connect America Fund.

The fund, which the FCC provides from phone tax and fee collections, will enable AT&T to deliver broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps uploads in rural areas where the cost of broadband deployment might otherwise be prohibitive.

"AT&T's acceptance of close to one-half billion dollars annually from the Connect America Fund represents a huge investment in broadband for its rural customers," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement today. "The financial support provided by American ratepayers will bring significant benefits to AT&T's rural communities, and we urge state and local leaders to help communities realize these benefits by facilitating the broadband buildout."

According to the FCC's latest Broadband Progress Report, nearly one in three rural Americans lack access to broadband Internet service, compared to only one in 100 urban Americans. The Connect America Fund is designed to close that rural-urban digital divide.

AT&T will get $26.1 million to add broadband service for 81,173 households in Tennessee; $25.3 million to add broadband service for 67,402 households in Georgia, and $23.2 million to add broadband service for 66,766 homes in Alabama.

EPB, which provides gigabit-per-second Internet service throughout Chattanooga, got more than $111 million five years ago from the federal stimulus program to build out its fiber-to-home network.

©2015 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.