PITTSBURG — More than a $3 million investment and a year of planning and then kicking off construction on a new high speed fiber optic line into parts of the city will be celebrated Thursday when Craw-Kan Telephone officially introduces its "Gigabit for Business" service.
A side benefit of the business-focused service is that as many at 1,500 residential customers in Pittsburg and Frontenac could benefit this year by having the option to move to the speedier Internet service, according to Zach Adams, marketing director for Craw-Kan.
The phone company is planning a 10 a.m. Thursday ceremonial ribbon cutting at the Southeast Kansas Career and Technical Center to recognize the center as the first Pittsburg customer for the gigabit service, according to Craig Wilbert, Craw-Kan general manager.
"We are proud to partner with CTEC to provide them with the telecommunications and security technology they need in their mission to assist in building a stronger workforce for the Pittsburg area — a workforce we will need to utilize as we continue to expand into the Pittsburg and Frontenac areas," Wilbert said.
Adams said the changing environment in the communications world has allowed Craw-Kan to expand its services. While in the past telephone service and often cable and Internet service areas were established by exclusive franchise agreements and other regulatory rules establishing boundaries, which essentially established monopoly areas, those rules have changed.
Adams said consumer demand is driving those changes.
"We've heard over and over that people want more services and higher speeds," he said.
With the new service coming to Pittsburg and Frontenac the company will be providing voice, office phone, security monitoring and closed circuit camera systems like those being initially provided to the Career and Technical Center at 1301 E. 27th Street Terrace.
In addition, high definition video, Internet and home DVR service and an expansive television lineup are part of services.
Adams said while Thursday's ceremony is at the center, the event is symbolic of eventually opening up all of Pittsburg and Frontenac for the higher-speed expanded service.
"Main line construction is complete and several residential customers have already had services installed," he said.
In Pittsburg the first areas to be served are the southeast part of the city around Via Christi Hospital and the far northern areas near Frontenac.
For Craw-Kan's residential customers the new service requires no deposit, no modem setup or installation fees and no other hidden fees for about $70 a month, Adams said.
"With streaming video, high definition TV, 4k video and smart televisions people are wanting more and more to be connected to the higher speed service," he said. "Craw-Kan will be passing nearly 1,500 residences and businesses in 2016."
At the Career and Technical Center, Executive Director Michelle Hucke said the new service will be a boost to instructors and students alike.
"It's going to help us by not only having faster, reliable service but it's going to allow us to have several users online at once," Hucke said.
For students doing certifications online interruptions in service are wasteful, frustrating and costly.
"This service is really fast," she said.
The center connected to Fort Scott Community College provides training in masonry, welding and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) currently but plans to expand its offerings in the future, Hucke said.
"Even though the areas we have now are basic construction trade areas almost everything today is more computer and tech related," Hucke said. "These days technology is involved in nearly everything we do and this service will be even more important as we move into the future."
Adams said the enhanced and expanded high-speed fiber optic service is a reflection of the way the industry is moving.
"We're more than a telephone company these days, we're your community technology partner," he said. For more information on the services Craw-Kan provides visit www.ckt.net or www.ruralfiber.org.
Adams said the ruralfiber.org address can provide information for people wanting more information or who want to sign up but who may not yet be in a part of the areas in two cities initially being served.
"Our Phase Two strategy is to continue to build out the cities to provide our services," he said.
That effort will take more time and an additional sizable investment on the part of the company, Adams said.
— Mike Elswick is a staff writer for The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ mike_elswick.