Tiny, rural Bluetown goes from zero to blazing fast broadband

dfwnewsa | March 18, 2024 | 0 | Technology , Technology News

Tiny, rural Bluetown goes from zero to blazing fast broadband

BLUETOWN, Texas – A rural part of Cameron County is going to go from no broadband service at all to one gigabyte fiber optic technology.

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The unincorporated communities of Bluetown and Santa Maria, with a combined population of about a thousand people, will now be able to enjoy blazing fast internet speeds thanks to a partnership between Cameron County and VTX1.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held to announce the new service, which should available within the next few months. 

“VTX1 Internet has been instrumental in delivering high-speed internet services to locations where others have hesitated to venture,” said VTX1 CEO Patrick McDonnell, from the podium.

“As we proudly proclaim, we possess the capability to undertake endeavors akin to those of larger entities, yet retain the nimbleness to address matters they overlook.”

McDonnell said VTX1 remains steadfast in its commitment to serving South Texas. 

“This collaboration between the public and private sectors represents the optimal approach to secure funding and ensure the comprehensive provision of affordable internet access to all the residents of Cameron County,” McDonnell said.

“Today marks the commencement of the first among several community groundbreaking events, a milestone we enthusiastically embrace.”

A yard sign promoting VTX1 at the company’s groundbreaking ceremony in Bluetown.

Orlando Quintanilla is chief operating officer for VTX1. In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Quintanilla confirmed the high speed internet service Bluetown and Santa Maria residents would soon be able to enjoy.

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“The attainable speeds are one gig by one gig. That is top quality, fiber optic connectivity,” Quintanilla said, proudly.

Asked what broadband service Bluetown and Santa Maria residents had before, Quintanilla said: “Zero. No service at all. The only thing that they had, potentially, was cellular service. Cellular can be good for certain things but for long-term use from the home it’s really not efficient enough.”

It was put to Quintanilla that this was quite an investment by VTX, considering that no tax dollars are being used.

“It is a lot of investment. But we are a rural provider at heart. We have been doing this for a long time. And we are a cooperative, so being able to do things efficiently and cost effectively is important for us. We are making a substantial investment but we’re willing to do that for the community and be able to move forward with connectivity for this and other areas.

Quintanilla pointed to a map that showed four rural Cameron County communities slated to get one gigabyte fiber optic connectivity. In addition to Bluetown/Santa Maria, the others are: San Pedro, close to Brownsville, Lozano, close to Rio Hondo, and Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island.

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“We are funding these projects ourselves with our funds and assets. We have a lot of assets in the ground already and we’re going to be utilizing those to expand the territory,” Quintanilla said.

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A map showing VTX1 Internet’s current and upcoming projects in Cameron County.

In addition to the four fiber optic projects, the map Quintanilla pointed to showed three circles where VTX1 will be deploying a fixed wireless service.

“We want to help the colonias in those areas. Basically it is a point-to-point fixed wireless connection. The residents there will have what we call a remote node or a device on the house. That device will be facing a tower, a vertical asset that we own or lease that will be facing the house and provide a wireless connection.”

Asked how fast the fixed wireless service will be, Quintanilla said: “It will start at 100 megs and go up to 400. We’re hoping that by the end of this year, we’ll have some upgrades, potentially providing gig-like speeds in these territories.”

Asked what the timeline is for all these projects, Quintanilla said: “We’re hoping to get services up and running here in Bluetown and Santa Maria in the next three to four months. The others will be completed hopefully by the end of the year.”

Quintanilla said VTX1’s work in Cameron County will not be done, even when the four fiber-optic projects and the three fixed wireless projects are complete.

“There is more work to do. And that’s the reason why we’re going to look to the state’s Broadband Development Office, to see what funds are available in this area that we can deploy and then apply for grant money to be able to cover the entire county,” he said.

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Asked if he had a message for state leaders that are trying to bridge the digital divide in Texas, Quintanilla said:

“The need is here. We know there are a lot of rural communities, a lot of colonias here in the Rio Grande Valley. Those colonias have mostly a low income population. We want to make sure that the internet service providers that are going after grant money have a an affordable package for people in the colonias to take advantage of.”

Quintanilla added: “The other thing is, take a look at the partnerships we’ve formed in Cameron County. Public-private partnerships are key because we know that the county knows where the needs are. And we know how to build the infrastructure right. We want to make sure we have the right partnerships in place. And hopefully those partnerships will garner more attention and maybe more points when we look at grant money.”

Elected officials and VIPs attended a groundbreaking ceremony for VTX1’s fiber optic project in Bluetown/Santa Maria.

Speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Cameron County Commissioner Gus Ruiz, state Sen. Morgan LaMantia, state Reps. Janie Lopez and Erin Elizabeth Gámez, and state Rep. Oscar Longoria’s chief of staff, Paco Sanchez.

The post Tiny, rural Bluetown goes from zero to blazing fast broadband appeared first on Rio Grande Guardian.

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