PHARR — The city launched a program with the intention of providing high-speed internet access to all Pharr residents.
City officials made the announcement Friday through a video presentation detailing fiber-optic cable broadband internet network service, which is being called TEAMPHARR.NET. The network will provide 1-gigabyte internet speed.
Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez said a study showed that the Rio Grande Valley had the greatest number of individuals without access to the internet, and the worst of those communities was Pharr.
This resulted in a $90,000 pilot study in 2019 in which families in the south Pharr area were given access to broadband internet access.
“We did a pilot study of 100 homes to see if it would make a difference, which it would,” Hernandez said. “We provided this service for free for them, and we monitored their progress and their utilization. Then we put it to paper, thereby setting up a good first step for future expansion.”
The city is now collaborating with the Pharr- San Juan- Alamo Independent School District, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Region One, BBVA and Frontera Communications to install 2.1 million feet, or 398 miles, of fiber-optic cable for all Pharr residents and businesses to have access to high-speed internet.
The mayor said the project was initially scheduled to launch in 2020, however those plans were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I didn’t know how long this thing was going to last,” Hernandez said. “Now that it’s turning the corner and our finances were not affected, we’ll now attempt to move on. We’re just 12 months behind, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to take off.”
Hernandez anticipates the program to be fully functional and available to all citizens in roughly 12 months. It will be completed in phases, starting with the colonias in the south side of Pharr and moving northward. The mayor added that the network service will be functional as it is installed.
“Six months down the road, half of the city will be done, but it’s going to be functional already,” Hernandez said. “By the end of the year — or the 12 months — all of the city will be functioning.”
The city has budgeted $40 million for the project and the service will not require the city to raise taxes, Hernandez added.
“Everytime we say we’re going to do something, we do it,” Hernandez said. “This wasn’t decided overnight. With due diligence and strong economic development and responsible financing, we can afford this. We don’t have to wait for somebody to come and give a helping hand. We’re going to do it, and you’re going to have access to the world wide web.
“For us, it’s a win on many fronts.”