Author Archives: Alana

Getting The Newspaper I Want

By Chris Neklason

When we first started Cruzio Internet back in the eighties, we were excited by the promise of the emerging new digital communications medium. If everybody was linked through this new network, the old gatekeepers and filters of publishing would be rendered moot! Everyone would have the power of a printing press, a radio and television station at their command!

Thirty some odd years later, yes and no.

From one perspective, this is the golden age of digital publishing. Through blogging and email newsletters, millions of new authors ply their words for a previously unavailable readership. Millions more publish their visual and photo art, and multitudes of talented filmmakers, podcasters, musicians and performers are reaching a vast global audience, sometimes with little more than the camera and mic of their mobile phone.

But over time, the corrosive effects of the advertising and marketing-driven attention economy upon civil society have been revealed, and the rapaciousness of some players in the attention industry have aroused concern.

Consider the current state of the local daily newspaper business: trapped by an obsolete business model under predatory ownership, unable to meet the needs of the community, and oblivious to the rise of its successor on the near horizon.

Our local newspaper is the Santa Cruz County Sentinel. It used to be owned by the McPherson family, but was sold and resold and resold over the years as many local dailies were, until it is now owned by Digital First Media which is itself owned by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund.

There’s ongoing concern about the water supply here in Santa Cruz County because of the drought cycle. Some years there’s plenty of water, and for long stretches, not enough. As a citizen, I want to know more about the state of the local water supply. How does it work? What’s the plan to keep it working? What’s in play right now? What are the citizen inputs?

This information is collectively “known” to the Santa Cruz County Sentinel reporters who have written stories about the issue over the years, and to various members of the community. But the only way to use the newspaper website to access that collective knowledge is to go to the site search box and enter the word “water” and then read through previous stories which have the word “water” in them. As an alternative, one can pull up an article about “water” and work the “related article” links at the bottom to the same effect.

So after 30 years of Internet, the digital experience of trying to acquire knowledge about a topic through the local newspaper website is the exact same as having to thumb back through a stack of dead tree newspapers.

Newspaper websites are the way they are because it satisfies the customer requirement, and the advertiser is the primary customer in the attention economy.

Attention being a finite resource, advertisers pay a lot of money to capture a slice. All of the innovations of the attention industry are focused on better capturing human attention and better delivering a more effective payload to human eyeballs.

This is touted as “creating a more personalized user experience” and manifests, when I go to Amazon and look at a power saw, as an ad for that power saw thereafter chasing me across every website I visit until I die, and then continuing to harass my descendents.

Meanwhile, my needs as a citizen to understand how something works in my community is represented exactly nowhere in the attention economy.

Compounding the poor fit of that business model with the ongoing mission of local journalism are the interests at play in hedge fund ownership.

It’s not in the interest of the hedge fund ownership to invest in evolving the local news business in any other direction because the hedge fund is not interested in the local newspaper as an ongoing concern or invested in any way shape or form in its mission.

Hedge fund ownership considers it a win if the local newspaper folds as long as a large profit over the equity investment is made within an appropriate (short) window of time. This leads to a death spiral of cost reductions leading to a reduction of reporting leading to lower readership until the newspaper dies. The hedge fund will just strip the corpse for parts to sell and move on.

To survive, local journalism needs to make the jump to an alternative business model under alternative ownership.

Humans are social animals. We’re also civic animals. Over 60 million Americans volunteer every year. People want to do more than share content. People want to share their knowledge and energy for the good of the community. People want to raise barns.

While much is made of the size and success of the attention economy, one of the more interesting things to come out of the Internet is the rise of the online participation economy. Specifically, platforms offering tools with which people collaborate and coordinate their efforts to do good.

Change.org claims 200 million users. On Kickstarter, 5 million users have backed 15 million projects. GitHub has 28 million users and an estimated annual revenue of $300 million. Meetup.com has over 30 million users, Stack Overflow over 9 million. Survey Monkey has 25 million users and $240 million in annual revenue. Wikipedia, one of the most visited sites on the Internet, has over 25 million registered users.

It’s clear the local newspaper I want will be born of this burgeoning economic sector because it will focus on my participation and my requirements. Empowering me is the whole point of the participation economy.

So my future local newspaper won’t just stream information about what’s happening, it will also accumulate knowledge. The knowledge I want about the local water supply will be presented as something like an up to date Wikipedia article, with links to related information such as water commission budgets and commissioner contact information.

It will include current and historical water quality information collected from local creeks, beaches, school drinking fountains and kitchen faucets, presented in tabular, map and other modern information visualization formats.

It will include an online forum where members of the community can discuss water policy or argue about the cost of different approaches or trade water quality test results.

It will maintain a directory of local civic groups including those active and interested in promoting a better water supply.

It will maintain a calendar listing upcoming meetings of the water district and water invested community groups, and it will let me sign up for reminders and alerts.

The local newspaper I want will utilize an information architecture in which I am not a member of an audience or a product, I am a member of the community and a participant.

The local newspaper I want won’t display any commercial advertising.

It will be crowdfunded.

It will develop an internal online platform to manage and administrate reporting, knowledge accumulation, community building, ideation, workflow and policy development, and support itself by selling subscriptions to those tools to outside civic organizations such as Elks, Indivisible, the California Association of Realtors, the Santa Cruz County Business Council and other groups working in the community.

It will develop and monetize civic intelligence through paid newsletters and advanced analytics for premium subscribers.

It will make alliances with the local library, museum, schools, public radio and community television groups.

It will collaborate with community members hosting Internet-connected weather stations, web cams, and air, water and other environmental quality sensors.

It will foster a community of correspondents, wiki editors, contributors and participants.

The local newspaper I want won’t be a newspaper anymore. It will be a knowledge base and knowledge exchange.

But sadly, it doesn’t yet exist, and local journalism following the business model of the attention economy and the ownership of hedge funds is clearly doomed.

This is brought home by the fact that now 30 years later Cruzio owns the building in downtown Santa Cruz originally built by the Santa Cruz County Sentinel.

Thirty years ago, we never dreamed how ubiquitous the Internet would become. We had high hopes, some since fulfilled, some yet to be achieved.

The evolution of the business of local journalism is among the yet to be, but there is hope for the near future.

While ownership might be sanguine about the relentless rounds of firings and layoffs and reduction of coverage, journalists and j-schools are not, and are leading the discussion about next generation business models and methodologies.

Blogging is growing up and the blogging platform ecosystem is overlapping more into newspaper publishing and community building. The development roadmap of Automattic, maker of WordPress, looks especially promising for the next generation of local journalists.

And perhaps most important, Internet users are not only becoming more comfortable with crowdfunding and paid subscriptions to tools and reliable information, they are demanding to participate in the economy not as passive customers but as active stakeholders.

It’s inevitable that as the digital community building ecosystem and the participation economy grow, someone will finally put the pieces together.

And I’ll finally get the local newspaper I want.

Santa Cruz Fiber – What’s Next?

Our first all-fiber neighborhood is complete in downtown Santa Cruz and we’re busily lighting up the first homes and businesses with scorching Gigabit Fiber Internet. It’s been a long and challenging construction project but it’s done, and now downtown Santa Cruz has a broadband infrastructure asset in place that will fuel creativity and growth for decades to come.

We’ve been super-stoked by all the positive feedback we’ve received from businesses and residents. It’s been really gratifying to hear how many local businesses and residents realize the value of competitive, Net Neutral, truly superior broadband to their homes and businesses, and see the long-term positive effect this new infrastructure is going to have on our downtown.

We’re on the lookout for neighborhoods who need better broadband – let us know!”

The City of Santa Cruz has been a helpful partner too, utilizing their own “dig once” policies to join the project and connecting several key City-owned sites. We love thinking big and we’re ready to revisit the city-wide partnership, or some other big project any time. If you think the City of Santa Cruz should prioritize broadband, let them know!

So what’s next? Well, a lot more network growth, a lot more broadband deployment and more and more gigabit speeds. Even as we’ve been building the downtown fiber, we’ve been expanding our fiber-wireless coverage in new areas and offering new 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps connections. We’ve already boosted and bolstered our fiber-backed network on the Westside, in Live Oak and in Watsonville, adding more and more redundancy and reliability and hooking up several big buildings and businesses to crazy-fast direct fiber.

More Gigabit Neighborhoods to Come!

Once we’ve hooked up the early adopters in the downtown neighborhood and we’re comfortable we’re seeing a successful business model, we’ll start looking for our next fiber ‘hood — which could be a residential neighborhood, an apartment complex or HOA, or another awesome mobile home park like trendsetting El Rio.

The best news is, new technology that’s emerging means we’ll be able to offer more and more gigabit service in an ever-expanding area. Where fiber makes sense, we’ll build fiber; where fiber-backed wireless makes more sense, we’ll use that technology. We’ve worked with businesses to link their separate facilities, city and county governments to bring free wifi to public places. We’re growing steadily and we’re also on the lookout for neighborhoods who need better broadband — so let us know!

We base our decisions on a simple question: what is best for our customers? To us, what makes sense is to use the best-of-breed technologies to connect as many people as we possibly can to the best possible broadband. Every Cruzio customer, whether fiber, wireless or Velocity, coworking or colo, helps build our network around the County. That’s the Cruzio way.

Fiber Construction: Phase One Complete

“You won’t ever need another connection because this one is so good.”

Construction’s Done!

At Cruzio, August 30th was Fiber Day. It’s the day we lit up the first customer in our first all-fiber neighborhood.

Fiber Day capped the first, we hope, of Cruzio’s many Santa Cruz Fiber neighborhood projects. Our first neighborhood covers most of downtown Santa Cruz.

Fiber — that means fast internet. The fastest internet. At $49.95 per month. Unprecedented. (By the way, are you in neighborhood 1? Then by all means, sign up now!)

Construction isn’t easy or cheap, but we had to build. There just isn’t good infrastructure available, so Cruzio took the plunge (into the earth, literally) and constructed an underground fiber network to every house, every office building, and every apartment complex in the area [see map].

This was a huge, multi-million dollar local investment by a small local company. No public dollars or grants were used. Eyes wide open: for future builds, we know that we can’t reach every part of the county without outside investment. We’ll need partners, and for the next expansion we’ll be looking for partners who are willing to go along with our principles — especially Net Neutrality and privacy for our customers.

In the meantime, we continue to expand our fiber in smaller increments. If you’re not in the first neighborhood, and you’re interested in fiber speeds, we’d love to hear from you.

What Will Gigabit Speeds Mean to You?

Now that construction’s complete, we can offer connections to the fastest network you could imagine. The interior cables are made of spun glass, which means that data travels at the speed of light. Fiber optics are safer (they don’t get hot, they’re not “live”) and use far less energy than older cable and phone lines. The network is overbuilt, meaning we’ve got pretty much unlimited capacity for any internet anyone wants for the next several decades.

Yup, decades. You won’t ever need another connection because this one is so good.

Any of These Interest You? AI,AR/VR/XR, HD, 4K, 5K, 3D

We want everyone in the county to have what we’ve had for many years at our building: scorching Gigabit internet — so much internet that it takes mere seconds to download a Netflix movie or upload your home video of a cat trying to sneak past a Great Dane.

Gaming, telecommuting, publishing, backing up data. AI, AR/VR/XR, HD, 4K, 5K, 3D. Symmetric downloads and uploads. All of these, and whatever crazy internet activities lie ahead, become a snap with a Santa Cruz Fiber connection.

And it’s local. And Net Neutral. And Cruzio respects your privacy.

Is Cruzio Competitive? Why, Yes

Now it’s time to make the first project a commercial success so we can build more. Our business plan shows we need to connect at least 33% of the people who live and work in the area in order to go forward with our next phase.

To make sure we get that level of market share, we’re “making an offer you can’t refuse.” Live or work downtown? We’ll give you a better connection than you can get anywhere else — a gigabit per second for $49.95/mo. That’s a price lower than what our competitors charge for way slower services.

Not to mention, again, the Net Neutrality and privacy Cruzio stands behind. That’s important to you and important to us. Plus we’re local and known for our customer service. We’re hoping you’ll subscribe and tell all your neighbors, too.

So join our network, help us get to more of the county and be rewarded with great, inexpensive internet at a low price. Just sign up here.

The Best-Connected Mobile Home Park in the Country – and the Woman Who Made it Happen

“Our Trailer park is right past the edge of your map,” she told us. “Can you extend the build over to us?”

El Rio Mobile Home Park, nestled by the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz, has a lot of stories to tell. And now it has one more: the fastest internet of any mobile home park in the country. Working with Cruzio Internet, residents of this cool park can now get scorching Gigabit internet for only $50 per month. It’s one of the first Santa Cruz Fiber neighborhoods.

El Rio was founded as a fishing resort in the early 20th century, when salmon ran abundantly in the river. Newspaper clippings, nearly a century old, are in frames on the walls of its community center. There’s a proud history here.

Walking through the park, cars drive by only occasionally and the posted speeds are slow… and slower. As you walk in front of the single- and double-wides, park residents nod “hello” in a friendly way, especially if you’re wearing a Cruzio hat. They’re ecstatic about the new fiber internet. They know they’re special. But it wasn’t just luck — they asked for, and worked for, a better internet choice.

It took many months to get from planning to building to lighting the new Gigabit Fiber Internet, but the first customer watched her speed jump by a factor of 100 on the very first day. That person is also largely responsible for the park getting the network. Her name is Hilary Hamm, and she’s a Fiber Champion.

Cruzio Called for Champions

Early in our planning, we put out a call for neighborhood “champions” — people who wanted to get fiber to their street and were willing to talk to neighbors about it.

We were working on a big project: building fiber to every home and business in the City of Santa Cruz as a start and moving on from there. (Ultimately, Cruzio would like to cover the whole county with high-speed fiber and fiber-backed internet — that’s always been the goal.) That ambitious plan was slowed down as we decided to start with a single neighborhood pilot project.

Our first all-fiber neighborhood is the area around our data center and coworking facility. That’s a diverse, well-populated area in downtown Santa Cruz and a pretty ambitious project — we received no grants and no government funding. We met regularly with our Champions, presenting them with our maps and plans as we created them. And one champion had a comment.

Hilary Understood What Fiber Could Mean For Her Community

“Our trailer park is right past the edge of your map,” she told us. “Can you extend the build to cover us?”

We’ll certainly consider it, we said. But she’d need to get it approved, since the park is privately owned and managed by its residents.

Hilary and our team explained the possibilities to the park’s Board of Directors (she’s on the Board herself), and they approved. Because the neighborhood was so close to our build, and because her neighbors were enthusiastic — many of them already Cruzio customers — we did as she suggested. We increased our project just enough to cover the whole park.

What did we offer? Hilary let her neighbors know about Cruzio’s deal, which is what every other customer in the fiber neighborhood gets:

-Cruzio built fiber to every home in the mobile home park
-No charge for construction, no setup fees for customers
-Gigabit-per-second speeds for only $49.95/mo
-No obligation. No charges at all unless our service is purchased
-No contracts. No data caps. No throttling
-Net Neutral, open internet
-Unlike major carriers, we don’t collect and sell customers’ private information

Now we’re seeing those scorching speeds inside the mobile homes. Residents are going to be able to do everything a high-powered tech worker can do at a desk in downtown San Francisco or LA. But they can do it sitting in their home.

That’s So Santa Cruz

It’s a pretty Santa Cruz-y thing to light up a neighborhood of regular folks first, before getting to the larger businesses. We believe the internet’s for everybody and we’re proud to make it happen for this friendly community.

We believe El Rio is now the best-connected trailer park in the country!

Thanks Hilary! You’re a true Champion.

If you think your neighborhood needs better internet and would like to talk to us about being a Fiber Champion, please get in touch! We’re waiting to hear from you.

First Phase of Fiber Construction Winding Up in Downtown Santa Cruz

Cruzio’s spent many months and millions of dollars building fiber infrastructure under the streets of downtown Santa Cruz.

This is Santa Cruz Fiber’s first fiber-to-the-premises project, and we’ve supplemented by serving a much wider part of the County with fiber-fed fixed wireless connections — extending that fiber’s effect far and wide.

Fundamentally, we’re moving from a dependence on old copper infrastructure to brand new connections which will provide much higher data rates — higher and higher for decades to come. And we’re getting these services to as many people as we can as fast as we can.

We feel it’s a great investment for us and our community.

There’s still another big step before every location in the fiber area is “lit up” and getting the hyper-fast service. After the construction finishes up in the next few weeks, Cruzio needs to finalize and test the brand-new cables and connect them to our data center. Then we’ll “drop” the connections from our street fiber vaults directly to the homes and offices who’ve ordered service.

So we’ll be contacting people who’ve signed up for fiber in the next few months. We’re expecting to be all finished in October, with many locations served in the interim months.

That means now is a great time to sign up for fiber if you haven’t yet. Contact us and let us know you want it.

“Price/speed for downtown fiber and certified buildings: $49.95/mo, 1 gigabit (1,000 megeabits) per second”

There’s still another big step before every location in the fiber area is “lit up” and getting the hyper-fast service. After the construction finishes up in the next few weeks, Cruzio needs to finalize and test the brand-new cables and connect it to our data center. Then we will “drop” the connections from our street fiber vaults directly to the homes and offices who’ve ordered service.

So we’ll be contacting people who’ve signed up for fiber in the next few months. We’re expecting to be finished in October.

That means now is a great time to sign up for fiber if you haven’t yet. Contact us and let us know you want it.

Cruzio Was at the Indie Business Expo

Last night at the Coconut Grove, Think Local First hosted its Indie Business Expo. We saw many current customers and had a few inquires taken to find out more about Cruzio Internet. We met many more who unfortunately can’t yet get our services, but who are in areas that are on our radar for future installations such as Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasting in Watsonville. If everything goes through with Watsonville Community Hospital, many more business like Hidden Fortress in that area will soon have access to the fastest local internet.img_2502copy-of-img_2520copy-of-img_2528copy-of-img_2517

The Expo was extremely successful with a long line even before doors opened. We saw some familiar faces; Allterra Solar and Good Times were stationed and ready for the bustling crowd of local business goers.

                                        copy-of-img_2484    copy-of-img_2500

This was a fantastic opportunity for us to promote the Fiber Project. With only months away from breaking ground in the first neighborhood, interest is growing steadily. We had a multitude of questions about Fiber! Many visitors to our station certainly wanted to know how long it would take for us to get Fiber out to them, and, conveniently, a number of these individuals lived between downtown and Mission St – a great area to be talking about Fiber as they are closer to our initial neighborhood for Fiber implementation.

copy-of-img_2505

A big thank you to Think Local First for the opportunity to showcase our services at the event. As always, a fun time and a brilliant event for local businesses like Cruzio to promote what we all do for our community.copy-of-img_2515