Connecting Rural Areas to the World

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Connecting Rural Areas to the World

Jeff Shooshtari introduced wireless internet services to the Rio Grande Valley when he established Twin Communications. (Courtesy)
Jeff Shooshtari introduced wireless internet services to the Rio Grande Valley when he established Twin Communications. (Courtesy)

Jeff Shooshtari started with one antenna atop the Chase Bank tower in downtown McAllen.

It was 1997 and the beginning of Twin Communications of McAllen/Edinburg. It was then the era of dial-up to the Internet. Moving large volumes of data online was the province of large companies. What is commonplace today was a rarity 20 years ago when Shooshtari, an engineer by training, began with microwave technology to launch wireless internet services in the Rio Grande Valley.

Shooshtari and Twin Communications now have 36 towers all over the Valley. The company is taking wireless to rural areas and giving families and households, along with businesses, the sort of internet services it helped to introduce to the region.

“We’re more relevant than we were when we got started,” said Shooshtari, who worked for Delco Electronics in Reynosa and saw how large companies moved data across the Internet in the 1990s. “We are getting service to the rural areas. Broadband is part of the utility now. It’s a necessity.”

Shooshtari’s company has continuously adapted as the industry has been transformed over the last two decades. Internet speeds have improved dramatically as has the technology that provides the sort of connectivity customers have come to expect. In the late 1990s, Shooshtari had to convince small businesses that there was another option beyond a phone line in connecting to the internet.

A Twin Communications wireless internet tower under construction in Pharr. (Courtesy)
A Twin Communications wireless internet tower under construction in Pharr. (Courtesy)

He recalled it being “a real struggle” in that era of going from dialup to wireless and then figuring out ways to make it affordable for small businesses and residences. He had to determine what sort of equipment Twin Communications needed to provide such services and still turn a profit. Beyond the business, Shooshtari gets great satisfaction in bringing wireless internet services to rural areas that larger companies cannot reach due to infrastructure costs.

“We are helping these smaller communities connect to the world,” he said. “The big companies are focused on urban areas. Our growth is in the rural areas.”

The company that started with a single tower now has them dotting the area from La Joya to Harlingen and along the river northward to the San Manual/Linn area, reaching 2,200 customers. Shooshtari’s future plans call for Twin Communications to go further west to Sullivan City and eastward to Brownsville.

“We’re continuously upgrading our technology to meet the demand coming our way,” he said. “It’s a very aggressive business. It’s not like coming up with one pizza sauce and staying with it. Every six months we’re doing something different.

Ricardo D. Cavazos is a journalist and business executive who has over 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and publisher and is currently managing allied health schools in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo. Working for Freedom Communications, Cavazos served as editor of The Monitor for eight years and was publisher of The Brownsville Herald for 14 years. He also served as publisher of the Valley Morning Star for one year and launched two Spanish-language publications - El Nuevo Heraldo and El Extra. He is an Edinburg native currrently living in Harlingen.

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