Written by Katie Yocum, USDA Rural Development, with assistance from Gayle Cargo, Texas Rural Development Public Information Coordinator
In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where hurricanes are known to ravage the coastline, temperatures regularly hit the triple digits and a trip to “town” can put over 200 miles on the odometer, Valley Telephone Cooperative, Inc. (VTCI) provides telecommunications services to a rural, culturally diverse population. Since 1999, VTCI has provided its customer base with world-class broadband connectivity, but neighboring communities outside their service area languished without access to any broadband services. But now, funding through the Broadband Initiatives Program, authorized through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will enable VTCI to bring first-rate broadband connectivity to those under-served communities via a fiber-based and fixed wireless infrastructure.
VTCI, through its subsidiary VTX Telecom, will provide advanced broadband services to eleven underserved communities in South Texas Plains, offering access to over 19,000 homes, 778 businesses and 196 key community anchor institutions, such as schools, libraries, and public safety institutions.
Almost all of the communities to be served by the new broadband technology are weighed down by high unemployment and persistent poverty. In the rural town of Raymondville, Texas, more than one-third of the residents live below the poverty line.
Staff from he University of Texas-Pan American Cooperative Center spent more than a month traveling the South Texas neighborhoods, conducting interviews and compiling information for the company to use in applying for the funds. That research helped make the application for the financial assistance more competitive, said George Bennack, associate director of business development for UTPA’s Business Development Centers.
The announcement of the funding award was made in April at an event attended by Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Victor Vasquez. “Expanding broadband capabilities to these rural locales will provide opportunities for existing businesses to grow and new ones to move to the area, as well as making education available for students,” said Vasquez.
Improved access to advanced broadband services will offer rural residents, like those of Raymondville, an opportunity to pursue higher education online, search for employment, or to connect their small or home-based business to the national and global markets. And beyond the many benefits that broadband access deliver, VTCI estimates that the construction of this project will create or save roughly 160 jobs, which will have a more immediate positive economic impact on the South Texas Plains region. To learn more about this and other broadband projects funded by USDA click here.
Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Victor Vasquez (left) announces funding support to bring
broadband technology to a portion of rural Texas.