PITTSBURG — High-speed Internet is critical in developing the job skills of the future.

On Thursday, the Southeast Kansas Career and Technical Education Center, which specializes in workforce development for the region, officially became the first business customer utilizing local company Craw-Kan Telephone’s “Gigabit for Business” fiber optic Internet service.

“It’s the first in the city limits of Pittsburg, said Zach Adams, marketing manager and customer service representative for Craw-Kan. “I’m real excited. We’ve got a lot of interest over here. Our plan is to eventually serve all of Pittsburg, but with an underground construction project of that size it’s going to be a while.”

The difference the upgrade is making can’t be understated.

“There were days, when it was really windy, that I had to use my phone to access the Internet,” said Michelle Hucke, CTEC’s executive director. “But it makes a huge difference and it’s also great for the future opportunities for students. This is a technical education center. We want to be able to provide technology-based opportunities for our programs.”

She said this is important for programs such as HVAC, which does more and more with remote-based technology monitoring.

Faster Internet speeds also represent a foundation for economic development.

“Everyone has the need not just for Internet, but for ultra-fast Internet,” said Craig Wilbert, general manager for Craw-Kan. “This is economic development. It’s been proven that wherever gigabit Internet service is offered the property values actually go up. When people do move into an area that’s one of the first things that they ask.”

Adams pointed out that many homes, or even businesses, might have 1-megabit or 10 megabit-Internet, and as this service is unrolled throughout the Pittsburg and Frontenac areas it will offer between 100 and 1,000 times the current capacity.

Wilbert said he appreciated the opportunity to begin with CTEC as the company’s first fiber optic Internet customer.

“Thank you to Michelle and especially the board,” he said. “We’re pretty honored that you have the trust in us to do this.”

— Sarah Gooding is a staff writer for The Morning Sun and can be contacted by e-mail at sgooding@morningsun.net