DENVER — Qwest Communications International Inc. said Thursday it will begin paying quarterly dividends in February for the first time since June 2001.

The dividend of 8 cents per share is part of the Denver-based telecommunications company's plan to reward shareholders for staying loyal through an accounting scandal that led Qwest, which is Utah's main phone-service provider, to restate about $2.2 billion of revenue.

The dividend will be payable Feb. 28 to all stockholders of record on Feb. 1, and the company expects it to continue in the future, chief executive officer Edward Mueller said.

The dividend comes a little more than a year after Qwest began a two-year program to repurchase up to $2 billion of its stock. The company expects to complete most of that buyback by the end of 2007.