Equal Access Santa Cruz has a simple goal: to bridge the digital divide and bring true high-speed broadband to every family in the Santa Cruz community, regardless of income level. The project is spearheaded by Cruzio Internet, one of the country’s oldest independent ISPs and a trusted partner in the Santa Cruz community for over 30 years.
When the current health crisis hit our county, our education system was an immediate area of major concern. it was obvious that the need for high-quality broadband had never been higher, and that low-income families would be the hardest hit.
Working with the County Office of Education (COE) and the Pajaro Valley School District (PVUSD) Cruzio quickly developed a plan to expand coverage and provide free and subsidized high-speed internet to dozens of low-income families and students.
The program provides families with free internet service including state-of-the-art home wifi for three months and then a heavily-discounted rate thereafter.
“Our priority is to support all students and families with the resources and tools needed for distance learning—especially our most under-served students”, said Jason Borgen, Chief Technology Officer for COE. “Focusing on equity, and doing everything we can to remove the digital divide from Santa Cruz County, the COE, and Cruzio, working together, can truly make a difference here,” he continued.
Demand for the service was overwhelming and clearly there was an opportunity to expand the program and serve many more families. Working closely with COE and PVUSD, Cruzio developed a plan to utilize district-owned properties to distribute wireless internet to many, many more families, students, and teachers. Faced with an urgent situation, Cruzio has relied on our own resources and our excellent connections within our industry. A quick call to one of Cruzio’s trusted technology partners, Aviat Networks, led to a donation of several high-end backhaul radios for use in the project. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to help Cruzio and Santa Cruz broaden the ability to communicate, learn, and continue to advance in life, even in these difficult times”, said Pete Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Aviat Networks.
While we didn’t at first consider outside donations as a possibility, once it was suggested we realized that not just Cruzio management and staff, but also other members of the Santa Cruz County community and the greater technology community recognize the importance of educational opportunity — and equity — for low-income families in our county. This knowledge has inspired us to expand the Equal Access Santa Cruz program and seek out new projects and opportunities that serve these goals.
The Digital Divide is newly revealed and it is creating unequal educational opportunity. As children are barred from libraries, community centers, and even friends’ houses, they need internet in their own homes. EASC has already provided that service to over 50 families and we are poised to serve hundreds more. And we need to act fast to connect as many people as possible as the fall semester begins.
“Our mission has always been the same,” said Chris Frost, Director of Infrastructure & Technology at Cruzio, “to offer affordable, high-quality Internet access to every home, business, and family in Santa Cruz County. Thanks to the support and vision of the community, we’re a step closer to that goal today.”