Willacy’s high-tech pioneer: VTX1 expands internet, customer base

RAYMONDVILLE — From this small farming town, internet service has helped technologically transform much of South Texas’ rural landscape.

Since 1952, Valley Telephone Cooperative has evolved into VTX1, offering high-speed internet, telephone services and security systems to 26,000 customers in a region stretching from Brownsville to the Austin area and from Corpus Christi to Laredo.

“We were the first rural company in the United States to offer high-speed internet access to its members,” Denise Reyna, the company’s spokeswoman, said.

Now, the company has purchased Rock Solid Internet in San Antonio, expanding its internet and telephone services into the Alamo City area while adding 21 employees.

The purchase comes about year after VTX1 acquired Ranch Wireless in Seguin, which broadened the company’s internet and telephone services from the Round Rock and San Antonio areas to Kingsville while adding 14 employees.

The company now serves a 40,000-square-mile area — about the size of Ohio.

Today, VTX1’s payroll of 218 employees makes the company one of the biggest employers in Willacy County.

“Acquiring Rock Solid not only establishes growth for us as a company but solidifies us being able to serve more customers than ever before,” Dave Osborn, VTX1 Companies’ CEO, stated in a press release. “Adding Rock Solid to our existing customer base will allow us to serve approximately 26,000 customers, making us one of the largest rural internet service providers in Texas.”

The purchase also expands the company’s telephone services.

“Besides Rock Solid’s primary internet service offering, we will also integrate Solid Phone and Com Canada, VOIP offerings for the company, as well as the wholesale and retail segment of their business,” Osborn stated.

Last year, VTX1’s purchase of Ranch Wireless expanded the company’s service area while improving its broadband quality.

“Their coverage area extends from south of Round Rock to Kingsville and includes San Antonio, San Marcos, New Braunfels and Corpus Christi,” Osborne stated at the time. “They have towers in these areas that we can use immediately to provide better broadband services to many of our existing customers.”

Corporate model

In Willacy County, the company stands as a corporate model.

“They serve the city in an extremely important capacity, providing us and the surrounding community with state-of-the-art internet service,” said David Correa, the Raymondville Economic Development Corporation’s executive director.

The company offers the EDC a key selling point to attract business.

“The fiber-based connectivity serves as a very strong selling point to outside entities expressing interest in the Raymondville and surrounding communities,” Correa said. “We’re fortunate to have their corporate offices here in Raymondville.”

Company history

More than 65 years ago, San Perlita farmer J.T. Mayo Sr. formed Valley Telephone Cooperative to offer telephone service to the farming region’s rural residents.

“It is difficult to imagine our world without phone service but that was once a reality in rural South Texas,” the company states on its website.

In April 1952, Mayo, B.C. Hester and Argyle McAllen used a U.S. Department of Agriculture low-interest loan to form the cooperative.

A month later, the company’s board of directors, including Verner E. Gustafson, J. B. Pinson, and Godfrey J. Lassig, all of Lyford; L.R. Ayers of San Perlita; B. C. Hester of Hargill; and W. T. Holland and Reid Rikard, both of Raymondville, held their first meeting at the Lyford Gin Association’s offices in Lyford.

In 1998, the company had launched its internet service, offering DSL 700 to 5,400 customers, Reyna said.

By 2013, VTX1 had moved into its new headquarters — a $2.5 million, 15,000-square-foot building at 881 E. Hidalgo Ave.

Now, the company continues to plan further expansion, Reyna said.

“We have a lot of work to do and we are just getting started,” Osborn stated.