Sentiment Mixed for Siloam Springs Cable Initiative

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SILOAM SPRINGS – About 45 people came to learn more Thursday night (March 29) about the city’s proposal to invest $8.3 million to run fiber optic cable directly to residents’ homes and businesses and add cable, Internet and phone services to its city-owned utilities. The meeting was the first of three public forums scheduled in advance of the May 22 vote on the proposal.

If passed, the city could provide more bandwidth and faster service than offered by private providers, officials say, while providing new revenue for city projects and an enticement for new industries. Mayor David Allen said the project would be funded by reserve monies and would be paid off in 12 years, according to projections. The end result would give citizens lower rates than they currently pay, in addition to serving future needs, he said. “It’s about progress,” Allen said.

Conway and Paragould are the only Arkansas towns currently which have city-owned broadband systems. Nationwide about 150 municipalities offer broadband services, including nearby Sallisaw, Okla. Keith Skelton, assistant city director of Sallisaw, spoke at the meeting, as did Mayor Allen and Dave Stockton, principal for Uptown Services Inc., the company which did a feasibility study for the city. The company’s report is posted on the city’s website.

Cox Communications and CenturyLink – the current cable, phone and Internet providers for the city – oppose the idea.

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