by Jeremy Johnson
It’s been a long time coming, but Pittsburg now has businesses with gigabit internet.
The Career and Technical Education Center of Crawford County (CTEC) is Girard-based Craw-Kan’s first “Gigabit for Business” customer in Pittsburg, and will commemorate the occasion with a ribbon-cutting this morning at 10 a.m. at CTEC’s campus at 1301 E. 27th Terrace. Zach Adams, manager of marketing and customer service for Craw-Kan, explained that this means CTEC is the first customer in Pittsburg to utilize Craw-Kan’s gigabit internet, which is the same speed as the Google Fiber internet service rolled out in Kansas City in 2011.
Adams was quick to add that though the service was “for business,” it wasn’t necessarily a one-price-fits-all model. “Many small businesses have essentially the same bandwidth usage as a residential customer,” Adams said. “We take that into consideration when putting together a package for a business.”
In May 2015, the Pittsburg City Commission voted to approve a franchise agreement for three companies offering fiber internet services to businesses and residents: Optic Communications (Columbus Telephone), Kansas Fiber Network, and Craw-Kan Telephone.
Jay Byers, Pittsburg’s assistant city manager and architect of the agreement, explained that the agreement established rules the companies would follow when laying their respective fiber networks in the city, and created a level playing field on which internet providers would conduct business. Byers called it “circumstantial” that the three businesses approached the city around the same time, but the city used the opportunity to create a single agreement that would broaden the options of internet available to Pittsburg residents and businesses. “Pittsburg is a natural market for these companies,” Byers said.
Michelle Hucke, executive director of CTEC, said they were very excited to be able to partner with Craw-Kan to deliver a range of services, including security and voice over IP (VOIP) in addition to internet.
“We were impressed with Craw-Kan’s ability to meet all of our needs affordably,” Hucke said. “That we could get all of the services we needed from a single company was huge.”
Both Hucke and Adams pointed to Craw-Kan’s being a local business as a contributing factor to the match. “We know the area, we know the people,” Adams said. “The money we’re spending here on the build contributes back to the local economy.” And the people they employ, from the field technicians to the phone support, are all local as well, many of them graduates of Pittsburg State University.
Hucke said that current internet use at CTEC is around 5 devices that are “mostly for office use,” but that investing in powerful internet was good planning for the future, since many programs could make use of the high-speed connectivity for things like testing, certification, and training. “There aren’t many applications now, but technology is intertwined with everything,” Hucke said. “We want to have a twenty-first century learning focus moving forward.”
And CTEC aren’t the only ones looking forward. Adams said that Craw-Kan is currently busy laying fiber on the northern and southernmost edges of Pittsburg, with a large number of residents calling in and asking when fiber service would be available. He said that while Craw-Kan has some idea of the direction they’ll develop in the future, they’re also attentive to demand. He pointed out that this also meant that those particularly impatient to get service would canvas their neighbors to sign up as well. “If we see a lot of demand coming from an area, we’ll take that into consideration when planning where to develop next,” he said.
Residents and businesses interested in getting fiber internet from Craw-Kan can sign up on their Web site, www.ruralfiber.org.