VTX1 Companies focused on growth

VTX1 Companies – with a sprawling, sparsely populated service area stretching from just south of San Antonio to the lower Rio Grande Valley – are focused on expanding its networks to drive economic growth in rural Texas.

“We want to continue to grow,’’ said Dave Osborn, CEO of VTX1 Companies. “No one is going to live out here unless we have Internet. It is as necessary as running water and electricity.“

VTX1 Companies – which includes the incumbent local exchange carrier Valley Telephone Cooperative, Inc. and its competitive local exchange carrier affiliate VTX Communications LLC – provide voice, high-speed data, fixed wireless Internet, Internet protocol TV (IPTV) and security applications for about 20,000 customers in a vast 30,000-square-mile area from south of San Antonio to the lower Rio Grande Valley.

VTX1, based on Raymondville, serves consumer customers, ranches, farms and a mix of businesses, wind farms, schools and universities, hospitals and local, state and federal government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. VTX1, with more than 200 employees, operates a network that mixes copper, fiber and fixed wireless to provide high-speed voice and high-speed Internet across South Texas. VTX1’s competitive local exchange carrier operates a fully-managed Internet protocol transport network and optical services for larger businesses and government customers.

Osborn said providing high-speed Internet connectivity to rural Texas is vital to the state’s future.

“The bulk of what we consume comes from rural areas. This is where food comes from. Pretty much everything you consume one way or another – mining, metals, food, grain –comes from a rural area,’’ Osborn said. “Where does petroleum come from? Water? Agriculture? There are some important things that happen in rural areas. So goes the rural areas, so goes the urban areas.”

“Young people simply are not going to stay in the rural areas without some sort of broadband’’ connection to the Internet, Osborn said.

VTX1 got its start in April 1952 as Valley Telephone Cooperative, Inc. when a group of local farmers and ranchers formed a nonprofit telephone cooperative to serve rural customers in South Texas after the larger telephone companies declined to provide service to the rugged sparsely populated area.

Congress had approved the Rural Telephone Act in 1949 which provided low-interest loans from the Rural Electrification Administration (now the Rural Utilities Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Just as the administration had helped power rural United States with electricity, the availability of low-interest loans led to a new era of growth for rural telecommunications with the availability of quality telephone service.

Since then, the company has grown to become a leading provider of high-speed data services.

In the 1980s, the company deployed fiber to support a bridge crossing at Laredo on the Texas-Mexico border. Since then, the company has continued invest in network infrastructure to serve the needs of the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas.

Serving such a large rural area can be challenging with the high cost of digging trenches and running networks to farms and ranches. Funding from the universal service fund has been vital in keeping Rio Grande Valley and South Texas consumers and businesses connected.

“We have 0.6 customers per square mile,’’ Osborn said. “Our outliers are real outliers.’’

With stimulus funds from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, VTX1’s competitive local exchange carrier affiliate deploys fiber networks, including fiber-to-the-home projects, in cities and counties across South Texas.

The company also built fiber optic routes to connect 26 locations for higher education institutions, including University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Texas Southmost College, Texas State Technical College, South Texas College and the UT Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine.

In early 2018, VTX1 Companies acquired Ranch Wireless, Inc., based in Sequin in a transaction that expanded VTX1’s service area by 17,000 square miles. Ranch Wireless provides fixed wireless Internet service, residential and business phone systems as well as digital land mobile two-way radio systems in an area south of Round Rock to Kingsville and includes San Antonio, San Marcos, New Braunfels and Corpus Christi.

VTX1 gives back to local communities and provides scholarships to local high school students.

Looking forward, Osborn said VTX1 will continue to grow to meet customer demand for high-speed Internet connectivity.

“You make a community viable. A Holiday Inn Express moved to George West because they could get Internet there,’’ Osborn said. ”We hear that over and over again – particularly when the Eagle Ford Shale (oil field) was booming.”

“ We’re trying to do the right thing and build infrastructure to make these areas livable and attractable,’’ Osborn said.

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