PHARR, Texas – Every other city in the Rio Grande Valley can have high speed internet as fast as that of Pharr. All they need is for their leaders to have the will to make it happen.

This is the view of Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez. Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the city’s much-heralded high speed, fiber optic internet project, Hernandez said the new service, with one gigabyte speed, will be ready citywide within the next 12 months.  

“Every resident in the city of Pharr, every business, will have access to this. It is their choice. We do not impose it on anybody. It will be your choice. But, I can assure you that from a quality perspective, there will be nothing like it in the Rio Grande Valley or even, I challenge, the state,” Hernandez said, at the Pharr Development and Research Center.

“We will be the only city, 100 percent, that will have fiber optic cable for all its residents and all businesses, irrespective of income. We are going to make it happen for you.”

In his remarks, Hernandez said there is no reason the entire Rio Grande Valley cannot have high speed internet as fast as Pharr’s will be.

“It is our hope that, as we move forward and forge what we need to do, that the other cities would come along. We are more than happy to share data. We are more than happy to partner with the neighboring cities,” Hernandez said.

“This (digital) divide is really worse in the Rio Grande Valley. We (can) all come together and say, you know what, we are a region, let’s take care of our entire region once and for all and put everybody’s banners aside and let’s just do it and make sure everybody wins.”

Hernandez added: “I think we can do it, with the help of the county, legislators, and of course all the city commissions from all the different cities. We can do it. All we have to do is say yes, let’s get it done.”

Interviewed after the ceremony by the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Hernandez said Pharr City Commission is spending $40 million on the project. Asked if he really thought the whole Valley could be “wired” as well as Pharr will be, Hernandez said: “Of course it can.”

Hernandez explained: “I think the other cities, if they should choose to, with the county… everything is about partnership. I envision us being able to partner with the state and the federal government, or the even the county and the cities, saying, you know what, this is a priority for us, why not allocate the proper funding, even if you have to leverage money, even if you have to borrow money, long term debt, that is fine, grants, whatever you have to do, it is possible. All you really need is the will to do it and move forward and execute.”

One of the other speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony was state Sen. Juan Hinojosa. He said high speed internet was important for students and telemedicine.

“What we found out during the pandemic is that internet is not a luxury. It is really a necessity,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said Pharr can serve as a role model for other communities across the state. “I really have to praise the City of Pharr. They really took the lead. They have been recognized by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank,” he said.

The importance of high speed broadband has been recognized by the federal and state government, Hinojosa said. He said the federal government was providing $10.5 billion to the State of Texas to give out in grants for the installation of broadband services. He said that last session the state legislature created the Broadband Development Office. He said this office has $5 billion to give out in grants to local communities. 

The Broadband Development Office will be able to identify block by block who has internet and who does not, Hinojosa said. He said that currently 73 percent of Texans have access to some form of internet. 

Asked about this figure later, Mayor Hernandez said: “You may have internet but define internet. Some people will say, I have wifi internet that is hit and miss. That is considered internet. Some will say we have 20 megabyte speed, that is a pathetic speed, but some will say that is called internet. Some of us will have one gigabyte speed or higher, that is called internet. So, it is a true statement when you say 70-plus percent of the state has internet. But, it is not quality internet. And it is not what we need. We are talking about quality and affordable internet. Big difference.”

Asked if any other city in Texas is providing as comprehensive a service as Pharr, Hernandez said: “Not to my knowledge. That’s got 100 percent fiber optic, I cannot think of a city. There are spots over the state of Texas but not a whole city.”

Asked what Pharr’s fiber optic broadband will do for economic development, Hernandez said: “I think it is going to be another economic engine for the Rio Grande Valley because people are going to see we are serious about infrastructure. Not only are roads important and drainage is important, but you have to have the human capital and you have to have proper infrastructure in internet, as well. Broadband, not just wifi. When they see a whole city, a whole county, a whole region that is committed to putting in infrastructure, you are going to attract those big companies because they need to be able to sell, they need to be able to market, they need to be able to move their supply chains along, and what better way than to have the best internet in the world.”

Other speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included former PSJA Superintendent Daniel P. King, Region One Education Service Center’s Eliza Alvarado, Hidalgo County Commissioner Eddie Cantu, and Pharr City Commissioners Daniel Chavez and Roberto ‘Bobby’ Carrillo.

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