First I would like to thank all of you for joining us this morning for this exciting announcement. It has actually been in the works and planning for many years now and is long overdue for many citizens and families in our great city.
For too long, Pharr families have lacked access to what is now considered a basic and necessary utility in life, affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband Internet. These days the internet is our lifeline. It connects us to the everyday world. It keeps us teaching, learning through virtual means and it gives us access to opportunities that beyond our normal reach.
The internet is a communications superhighway and our connection to the world. This unprecedented year brought to life many issues and challenges regarding the lack internet connectivity in our area.
But we in Pharr have been working towards viable solution for years. (Join us together as view some of the history of this project. (Dr. Hernandez then plays a video).
It (the video) sums up this whole project that we have been working on since we took office in 2015. We have had, as we have demonstrated, great partners, starting with Region One, Dr. King with PSJA school district and the pilot program, BBVA, and, of course, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. They really saw the need and they brought it to light. I am just so proud of where we have come in such a short time.
This digital divide has been getting the attention of our state legislators, of course, and our federal government. It appears there will be some solutions being developed down the line. Just this week the Texas Tribune featured an article regarding the lack of internet access in colonias here in South Texas, and noted that there is legislation being put forth by state representatives that would establish a grant program to incentivize access to the development of broadband services in communities across Texas.
In his remarks to the joint session of Congress this week, President Biden again reiterated his $100 billion proposal to provide Americans access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet that they need to participate in today’s economy. We are grateful to have representatives of our state legislative delegation here today and also from the federal. We are encouraged by their efforts, our federal government’s efforts to help communities to bridge the digital divide. But, you know, if you look at the historical perspective of the City of Pharr and its leadership, yes, there is a deficiency but the way we see it as a city commission is, we see it as a challenge and an opportunity, whether it be parks, drainage, roads, broadband access, economic development, this city commission has always taken it on the chin. We don’t wait for people to provide solutions, we engage and develop a solution. That is what this administration has always done. And here we are again.
I am delighted that the state legislators, and I am very proud of our federal partners also, and the White House, for moving the needle. But we don’t wait in Pharr. In Pharr we have come up, by doing our due diligence, with a solution today. Not a pie in the sky, not waiting for a grant. We are going to solve it today. It is an aggressive program and we know we can do it. It is not taken lightly in. It has taken a few years to develop because that is how decision making takes place. You plan it out, you ask the experts, you don’t discuss it and decide over coffee. You don’t take it lightly, but you ask the experts. And here we are.
We will have broadband in every home, every business, every institution within the borders of the city of Pharr’s geographical boundaries. You will have fiber optic cable available to your institution and/or building, home or apartment. It will be no less than one gigabyte speed. That is 100 times better than you will see in the market today. That is only because the city commission has put the proper infrastructure in play. We are delighted that there are so many independent providers with the service, whether it be AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum. We are delighted with the service they provide. But they are unwilling to participate and put in the proper infrastructure that we all deserve. But we will do it in the city of Pharr.
The project’s name is TeamPharr.Net. We will install 2.1 million feet, or 380 miles of fiber optic cable to 24,000 residential and business accounts, and counting. The network will provide internet speed of one gigabyte, as stated. It will be fast, reliable, accessible, and affordable to Pharr families and citizens.
This project has been undergoing a preliminary network study during the last few weeks and we expect to start building no later than a few months. The phases will be built in as stated in the video, starting from south Pharr going north, the most needed will be addressed first. Eventually the entire city will be lifted up and ready for full use by June of 2022.
We are doing this as a service to our community because we cannot let our Pharr families remain behind in the digital world. The Pharr solution will bridge the digital divide once and for all, providing reliable and permanent access to fast high-speed internet at an affordable rate. We are proud of this venture and creative solution that we hope can be a model for other communities to follow so that they, too, can help bridge the digital divide.
And with that, thank you very much.
Editor’s Note: The above commentary was made by Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, mayor of Pharr, at a news conference held in Pharr to celebrate the launch of TeamPharr.net.
Quality journalism takes time, effort and…. Money!
Producing quality journalism is not cheap. The coronavirus has resulted in falling revenues across the newsrooms of the United States. However, The Rio Grande Guardian is committed to producing quality news reporting on the issues that matter to border residents. The support of our members is vital in ensuring our mission gets fulfilled.
Can we count on your support? If so, click HERE. Thank you!