WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Rep. Chris Carney (D-10) announced Wednesday a $36 million Recovery Act grant for Keystone Wireless LLC to offer 3G broadband service in central Pennsylvania.

The program, administered nationwide by the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, aims to expand broadband access to rural regions throughout the country. With new or increased broadband access, communities will be able to expand businesses and education programs, allowing them to better compete in the global economy.

The $36 million award will allow Keystone Wireless to expand 3G broadband services in Lycoming, Union, Northumberland, Snyder, Montour and other central Pennsylvania counties, making it available to approximately 963,000 people, 26,000 businesses and 9,000 community institutions.

Keystone has operated its cellular phone company as Immix Wireless since 2003.

"Right now, the biggest telecommunications challenge facing rural America is access to broadband Internet. Universal broadband access is critical to strengthening rural communities and fueling economic development throughout rural America," said Carney.

In an interview earlier this year, Keystone's Dennis Lose, director of public development, said the grant would allow the company to expand its existing infrastructure.

"We saw the need for the area to have a faster, better broadband service," he said then. "We consider it a wise use of taxpayer money."

The company will be using the existing towers and equipment and upgrade them to provide at-home wireless Internet to its customers, which will be 3G but easily upgradable to a 4G network.

This will the first time Keystone will be entering the Broadband Internet service.

The wireless network will provide a whole new level of economic development, said Lose. The service would not just be tied to the home, but also mobile and portable laptops.

Keystone has also partnered with the state's $28.8 million "Middle Mile" Broadband Infrastructure Project, which would serve 32 counties along the northern tier of Pennsylvania. They would provide the last mile of broadband to rural communities in Clinton and Lycoming counties.

Keystone's application is similar to what Lyric Communications, a start-up company formed specifically for the region's broadband need, has also been seeking. It could not be confirmed Wednesday if Lyric's application was rejected, but it was expected that only one company would be approved for funding for the region.