A census measuring data from 2013-2017 revealed that fewer than 50% of Siloam Springs residents have a broadband internet subscription.
A broadband internet subscription is a radio term that has come to mean a fast internet connection. These are fixed subscriptions that gives the user faster internet than a dial-up option, such as cable. Cell phones and Wi-Fi plans that come from cell phone companies are not in this category. Just 49.5% of Siloam Springs residents reported on the census that they had a subscription.
Sam Gurel, a John Brown University commuter student, was surprised by the statistic: “I guess there is a lot of farmland and I would assume that people who live in the deep country don’t have it. I mean, their roads are still poor.” Gurel questioned the viability of the other options available. “I am surprised fiber optics haven’t taken off, since those are in the ground and accessible to rural areas,” Gurel said. “Yet, I have a friend with just an iPad and a landline, she doesn’t need more than that since it’s a fixed charge and she can use all she wants.” He still considers a cellular plan the easiest way to get Wi-Fi. “The rest of the population likely use their phone plans, and they are paying for what they use.”
Dana Hawkins has been a resident of Siloam Springs for 40 years. When asked why she has a Wi-Fi subscription, Hawkins said, “That’s how you do life now. It is online banking, convenience and communication made easy.” Hawkins thinks the older people in Siloam Springs are the people without subscriptions. She said the “elderly probably don’t want Wi-Fi because it’s not something they are familiar with and they worry about being hacked.”
Hawkins shared a story about a 70-year-old woman from her Bible study group who doesn’t want anything to do with the internet or email. “If your Wi-Fi gets hacked, that’s all your info. Who needs an email? We didn’t used to have it, you got bills in the mail and shopped in catalogs,” Hawkins said.
In comparison, Little Rock, reported 74.9% of residents have a broadband internet subscription. The elderly population in Siloam Springs and Little Rock is 10% and 13%, respectively. While that is significant, it is likely that there is a larger demographic in both cities that do not have fixed internet subscriptions. The census may be considering students who use their phones for internet access.