Project speeds up broadband, brings area into 21st century

RAYMONDVILLE — It’s an $80 million project.

And it has connected much of rural South Texas with fast-speed broadband services, creating jobs and thrusting public education into the 21st Century.

Yesterday, national and local leaders hailed VTX1’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the catalyst behind the region’s high-tech transformation.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Broadband Initiative, VTX1 used a $40 million loan and a $38.5 million grant to bring high-speed Internet services to rural communities from the Rio Grande Valley to the San Antonio area.

Raymondville Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said new broadband services will help the city plan an industrial park.

“This is one of the most important investments in our rural areas,” Gonzales said. “The city of Raymondville can compete with any city in the country with wideband speed.”

In Lasara, the project is transforming education, Superintendent Sara Alvarado said.

For years, she said, school officials worked with outdated technology to launch computer-based learning.

“Our network was extremely slow,” Alvarado said. “We had extreme difficulty.”

But during the Christmas break, VTX1 installed new broadband services, Alvarado said.

“We went from the Flintstones to the Jetsons,” she said, referring to the classic television cartoons. “Students and faculty are working at a much faster pace.”

Dave Osborn, VTX1’s chief executive officer, said the company launched the project in 2010, creating 800 to 1,000 jobs while expanding the company at “50 cents on the dollar.”

From the Valley communities of Raymondville, Lyford, Sebastian and Santa Rosa to areas just south of San Antonio, the project helped the company add 6,000 new fiber customers and 1,100 new wireless customers, Osborn said.

Osborn recalled the company’s roots as Valley Telephone Cooperative developed high-tech subsidiaries such as VTX1.

In 2012, the company opened its new headquarters in Raymondville.

“The heart of this company has always been lifting the rural areas,” Osborn said. “We’re continuing the mission to bring the best services possible to rural areas.”

Tony Hernandez, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service administrator, said the project has helped transform the area.

“Broadband is the door you open to change the world,” Hernandez said. “We are changing people’s lives through investment.”

Paco Valentin, state director of USDA Rural Development, said the partnership helped bring the area into the 21st Century.

“The main thing was to put a special emphasis on job creation and bring the community into the 21st Century,” Valentin said at company headquarters. “Broadband development creates a whole new opportunity. It’s created entrepreneurship. It promotes distance-learning in our schools.”