PHARR — Local and state representatives gathered Tuesday morning here at the Pharr Development and Research Center, located at 850 W. Dicker, for a ceremony that was groundbreaking in both the literal and figurative sense.
The ceremony marked the launch of TeamPharr.net, the city’s new high-speed internet service utility.
“To us, it’s a historical moment for the city of Pharr,” Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez said at the event Tuesday. “We’re very proud. I want our residents to be acutely aware that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that they’re getting. We want them to take advantage of it for the sake of not only their families, but their commerce.”
Tuesday’s ceremony commemorated the first of three phases for TeamPharr.net, beginning in the southern part of Pharr and moving northward, but it also marked what local leaders believe could be the future for the Rio Grande Valley.
“I have to praise the city of Pharr,” state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said during the ceremony. “The city of Pharr really took the lead in trying to provide internet access to its citizens.”
Hinojosa said that the federal government was able to realize the disparity and need for internet access, which is why $10.5 billion was invested in the state of Texas for grants. He also recalled the creation of the Governor’s Broadband Development Council (GBDC) in 2019.
He said that the GBDC is working to identify areas in the state of Texas where there is a shortage of internet access. Hinojosa said that only 73% of the state currently has access to the internet.
“People are looking at Pharr, it’s leadership and what they are doing with the internet,” Hinojosa said. “For me and the Texas legislature, we’re thinking of using Pharr as a model, as a model for other cities to look and copy, to be successful the way that Pharr has been.”
TeamPharr.net was first announced in May of this year. At the time, the city made plans to invest $40 million in the project. During a city commission meeting in August, commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of $556,032.11 worth of materials. They also approved a contract with STX Underground LLC of Brownsville worth $1,019,593.
In all, the city plans to install approximately 2.1 million feet of fiber-optic cable.
Hernandez, who also serves as chairperson for the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he anticipates other communities adopting a similar model to provide internet access for citizens and businesses.
“If we show the state and the federal government that this model works well — and we’re showing that it does work, it is plausible — why not branch out and give the template to our surrounding cities so that they can succeed,” Hernanez said. “They can use it identically, or they can fine tune it to what fits their citizens. Or we can just keep working together. We outfit the entire county, and then the entire Rio Grande Valley, to have the best and latest internet service — which is fiber optic.”