A Leap in Connectivity

0
142

Cameron County, known for its prosperous cities, such as the port town of Brownsville or the economic hub of Harlingen, is bridging a problem: a digital divide between urban areas with widespread internet access and rural regions with limited access to the internet. This issue was brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many individuals in rural areas disconnected and in the dark. At the same time, the rest of the world retreated online. Efforts to overcome such disparity have culminated in a partnership between Cameron County and VTX1.

VTX1 is a South Texas telecommunications company. The company will execute five projects to establish accessible internet coverage, starting with one in Bluetown, followed by works in Lozano, San Pedro, and south of South Padre Island, including Isla Blanca Park.

The project was launched with a groundbreaking ceremony on March 15th, 2024, in Bluetown, TX. VTX1 officials, including CEO Patrick McDonnell, Cameron County officials, such as Judge Eddie Trevino Jr., and state legislators, attended the event.

“Together, we embark on a journey toward a more inclusive and prosperous future for all residents in this area,” said Orlando Quintanilla, chief operating officer for VTX1, at the event.

The consequences of a digital divide have been present since the proliferation of the internet but were made evident during the lockdown, and the gravity of their implications was made apparent. Unequal access to education, limited communication, and the inability to benefit from the digital economy in rural areas were among some of the hindrances faced.

“Kids were trying to do virtual, but if you lived out in the country, you didn’t have access to broadband internet access. We started realizing they were having a really tough time being able to go to do their work,” said Judge Trevino Jr.

“They were having a drive to the Santa Maria parking lot in order to try to get broadband access. So we realized that we were woefully lacking in our broadband and our internet infrastructure.”

Noticing the difficulties experienced by residents, Cameron County conducted studies evaluating the necessity of internet area coverage expansion, leading to a search for an internet provider that would work to develop the county’s broadband reach.

“Through a competitive process, VTX1 proved to Cameron County that they were the best partner for us, and we’re proud to stand with them here in order to expand reliable and affordable internet to the people of Cameron County,” said Judge Trevino Jr.

VTX1 is fully funding the first five projects, investing over $10 million of its resources and costing the county zero funds. Moreover, using fiber technology to provide bandwidth means that residents will have access to state-of-the-art internet connectivity with the fastest speeds and minimal interruptions.

“This expansion will make it possible to expand services related to economic growth, education, health care, emergency management, and even agricultural operations for our residents and businesses,” said Texas Senator Morgan LaMantia, present at the ceremony.

Looking to the future, VTX1 aims to continue establishing and developing affordable, high-speed internet in Cameron County. The company will assist the county by providing grant-writing services to obtain the funds necessary for further broadband expansion and successfully bridging the digital divide. It will benefit from the capital set aside by federal and state legislatures, such as Texas 2021 House Bill 5 and Texas 2023 House Bill 9, which allocates $1.5 billion in aid to support internet service expansions across the state.

Rafael Mendoza-Farias Jr.