MCALLEN, Texas – The executive director of Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation says the Rio Grande Valley should create a new group to plan the deployment of fiber optic broadband infrastructure.
Judy Quisenberry was a panelist at the recent 26th Annual TATOA Conference & Awards Ceremony. TATO stands for Texas Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. Its conference was held at the McAllen Convention Center.
In her remarks at the conference, Quisenberry said she was “alarmed” to learn that the City of Harlingen was going to spend $4 million to put Wifi hotspots on top of traffic lights. That would not have been money well spent, she said. Quisenberry persuaded Harlingen leaders to spend some of the federal money on developing a broadband plan.
Here are Quisenberry’s opening remarks during the panel discussion:
The panel was titled “Broadband Funding Alternatives Under Philanthropy and the Community Reinvestment Act.” After the panel had concluded, Quisenberry gave an exclusive interview to the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service.
“A lot of communities think they are connected. They don’t think they actually have a connectivity problem. That that problem exists with the provider. What they don’t understand is that some of their communities simply cannot afford connectivity or the level of connectivity (is not fast enough),” Quisenberry told the Guardian.
Quisenberry said a regional approach is needed.
“It is going to take a regional approach to be able to bring down some of these federal monies. And so, to me, the urgent call is to have cities not only work on their own broadband plan, which I think is important, and Brownsville and Harlingen have theirs, and Pharr is well ahead of the game, I believe McAllen has one and Cameron County is now working on one, which is great. But we need to have a regional approach much like they did with the RGVMPO.”
RGVMPO stands for Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization. It is the conduit for all the federal transportation dollars that come to the Valley.
“The RGVMPO is a first good example of communities working together and that was not easily done. This (regional broadband group) won’t be easily done either but we will all lose if we don’t figure out a regional way to bring infrastructure that we all need,” Quisenberry told the Guardian.
Asked if the deployment of broadband infrastructure is an economic development issue, Quisenberry answered affirmatively.
“I think industry is going to require fiber in particular. It is future-proof. It has the ability to shift speeds really very simply. It is not an underground technology. Once it is in the ground it can stay in the ground and work for 40 to 50 years,” Quisenberry said.
“So, it is a big investment upfront but, it will last. So, you get what you pay for. So, I think it is important we look at fiber as the basis for our infrastructure and that is going to attract companies here. Because they are not going to come if they have to connect to cable.”
Quisenberry said the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council would be a good group to oversee a regional broadband infrastructure planning entity. She said a good model to follow would be one set up by the LRGVDC’s counterparts in Brazos County, Texas.
“I think the COG is a perfect organization to do it. In Brazos County that COG has 11 counties that I believe they are responsible for and they did that large fiber ring. So, that model exists. We have a good model to look at.”
Quisenberry said philanthropic groups like Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation can help with broadband infrastructure projects. But, she said, municipalities have to take the lead.
“I think philanthropy is poised to be part of the solution. I think there are a lot of funders out there that are at the table talking about the importance (of broadband). For me (it is important for) tele-health. You cannot have tele-health on 25 over 3. That is a streaming service and you have got to be able to really see that doctor on the other end,” Quisenberry said.
“We have some models of tele-health in the Valley that are working well. But they are in small pockets. There are so many things that I think philanthropy can help with but we need cities and elected officials to really come to the table and understand the issue and then help find some solutions.”
Quisenberry said that as a bare minimum the Valley needs and deserves high speed internet at 100 over 20.
Here is the video interview with Quisenberry:
Editor’s Note: The above video news story is the second in a three-part series based on a recent conference held by the Texas Association of Telecommunications Officers & Advisors (TATOA) at the McAllen Convention Center. Part One features an interview about the digital divide with TATOA Vice President Gabriel Garcia. Click here to watch it. Part Three focuses on a broadband infrastructure project being developed by the City of Pharr. This will be posted in our next edition.
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