Let me begin by saying how pleased I am to have you as our guests at our VTX1 headquarters today. On behalf of our Board of Directors and our employees, welcome to Raymondville, Texas. 

Having legislators from all over the state of Texas visiting VTX1 to see what is happening here reflects the tradition of both political parties wanting to deliver better internet service to our country. 

One section of the legislation defied both the anchors of history and the dominant political dynamics of the moment: the $65 billion dollars allocated to broadband. 

Unlike transportation and water systems, broadband is primarily funded by private capital. You, our political leaders, should be proud of how you have applied the lessons of the pandemic and utilized unifying messages to build political capital for expanding broadband network coverage and increasing broadband adoption. 

I am proud to say that VTX1 has a splendid record since it began in 1952 as a telephone cooperative with the mission to provide telephone services to areas in the Rio Grande Valley where large companies would not invest their resources. Today, VTX1 mission has not changed; we continue to provide affordable highs speed internet to neglected areas. That has been and will continue to be VTX1 mission. We are not just financially invested but personally invested in our communities. 

Access to the internet isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. We need to ensure that everyone in Texas has access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet; the internet doesn’t just help individuals; it helps our Country. It creates jobs and opportunities here in the United States, and it helps us connect to one another, building a stronger, more free society. We must focus on closing the digital divide and how it challenges and strengthens our communities. 

VTX1 already serves almost 50 thousand square miles of Texas, which means, combined with our experience, expanding our network will be more efficient and cost-effective than building something new. 

Broadband can be explained by using highways as analogies. When it comes to commercial transportation, we move our goods and services in many ways, some by train, others by truck or boat. 

Like a roadway network, broadband is not a “one-and- done” solution; networks require ongoing maintenance and operating expenses. 

Because Texas is growing rapidly, there is a need for more infrastructure. But, still, it also needs infrastructure to perform 5, 10, and 20 years from now so that today’s investments continue to serve Americans tomorrow. 

While there is a desire to see Fiber to the Home as the only solution to bridging the digital divide, it is not the only solution. VTX1 uses a hybrid network model leveraging the deployment of fiber optic networks with fixed wireless technologies to deliver high-speed internet to the hardest- to-reach areas of Texas. This allows us to offer the best of both worlds. 

The flexibility and speed of deployment of wireless technologies aid the virtually unlimited capacity of Fiber. As a result, VTX1 fixed Wireless is capable of meeting, and surpassing, government standards with the new technologies being deployed. Fixed Wireless can bring affordable high-speed internet to the most remote areas at a fraction of the cost of Fiber to the Home and serve more people. As broadband becomes ever more critical to our daily lives, the story about what it means to have reliable broadband internet gets blurry. 

The conversation at the state level defines success as giving Fiber to everyone, but at VTX1, we know there is a compromise. Combining Fiber and fixed Wireless can extend the benefits of broadband to everyone for a fraction of the cost and time it takes to deploy Fiber alone. At VTX1, we deploy fixed wireless networks to extend the network’s reach. Enabling thousands of households to access broadband that exceeded their needs at an affordable price. 

There is a misconception that Wireless is an inferior technology. While fixed Wireless will always be second in speed compared to Fiber, when a wireless deployment gets planned correctly and coupled with the latest equipment, it can provide speeds that challenge this notion. In many cases providing speeds comparable to Fiber. 

As you return to Austin and continue to work on bridging the digital divide for all of Texas, we encourage you to support and leverage the multitude of technologies available to us and make the great state of Texas even greater than it already is. 

With broadband being touted as the new “gold rush of the 21st century,” it pays to ask, how long would it take to get every American connected to fast, reliable, affordable broadband. We strongly believe a hybrid model is an answer that best balances all that I mentioned. 

We are at a crucial stage in the history of high-speed internet. The decisions you make now will have far-reaching consequences. It is up to all of you here today to disrupt, recalibrate, revolutionize, and transform access to critical high-speed internet for Texans by using innovation and technology. You are the leaders of today! 

Let me conclude by reminding every one of you that your voice is what matters right now. Use it! This is our Country, and we need you to demand it, claim it, and help transform it! 

Thank you! 

Editor’s Note: The above guest column by VTX1 President Idalia ‘Dolly’ Villarreal is based on prepared remarks the author penned for a visit to the co-operative’s headquarters in Raymondville, Texas, by state lawmakers and their staff. The legislative delegation visited VTX1 on Jan. 27, 2023, as part of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership’s 2023 Valley Legislative Tour.

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