Author Archives: Alana

Connections Made: Equal Access Santa Cruz County Report to the Community

A high-speed fixed wireless internet distribution site (Point of Presence or PoP) on a PVUSD building in Watsonville.

By Peggy Dolgenos and Susan True

An internet service provider, a school district, and a community foundation walked into a zoom room…

What sounds like the beginning of a boring COVID-era joke is actually the true story of an extraordinary cross-sector partnership of industry, philanthropy, and education that has brought internet access to hundreds of families in the Pajaro Valley through Equal Access Santa Cruz County (EASC).

The Problem to Tackle

Among the persistent inequities that became glaringly visible at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of internet access threatened to put students, who already face obstacles to their education, even further behind during distance learning. Although students were equipped with Chromebooks and hotspots, internet connections were spotty and unreliable. Many were missing class sessions, unable to access online homework, and unable to communicate with their teachers.

Double Jeopardy

In order to start bridging the local digital divide, we had to address the core issues—a lack of internet infrastructure in many parts of the County, especially the Pajaro Valley, and families being unable to afford the monthly internet bill.

Problem-solving the technology was fairly uncomplicated for a company like Cruzio. But they needed a philanthropic partner to help raise funds, and act as a place where donors’ gifts could be entrusted and stewarded. With four decades of experience bringing together people, ideas, and resources to tackle the most pressing problems in our community, the Community Foundation was a natural and eager partner.

Cruzio’s high-speed fixed wireless internet distribution sites (Point of Presences or POPs) can be built quickly and at a fraction of the cost of fiber. The Cruzio team installed POPs on PVUSD school buildings, with each site capable of serving 150 or more users. And free or heavily subsidized service was made possible through gifts to the Community Foundation’s EASC fund, bridging the affordability gap.

Luis & Thom from Cruzio install internet infrastructure at Buena Vista Migrant Labor Camp.

The Community Comes Through

When we bring the community together, we get things done. Donations came from groups like the Rotary Club of Watsonville, local companies–including a major grant from Driscoll’s and another from Reiter Affiliated Companies, and many generous individuals. Your donations to EASC have made a meaningful difference in the lives of hundreds of students and families.

Mahia Aguilar, a Aptos Junior High student, told us that thanks to EASC, she didn’t need to go out to the park looking for free internet. A single mom whose child attended the distance learning support program at the Farm Discovery Center (where we connected high speed broadband) told us that she was able to go back to work to help feed her family.

Equal Access Santa Cruz County By the Numbers

This is what your generosity helped accomplish.

Next Steps

The internet is an essential educational tool whether students are in digital classrooms or back on campus. They need it to access assignments, for research, and to stay on top of work during absences, which during this time of COVID are many, as students face exposure and climbing cases.

Phase 1 of Equal Access exceeded our expectations. In the next phase, new internet sites are already planned as we continue our partnership with PVUSD, add coverage in Live Oak, and collaborate with Pajaro Valley Shelter Services. We’re developing a new partnership with Santa Cruz Housing Authority and other affordable housing developers to bring gigabit-speed internet to hundreds more families across the county.

You can help support the work ahead by giving to the EASC Fund. Together, we will close the digital divide in Santa Cruz County.

About the Authors

Peggy Dolgenos is the CEO of Cruzio.

Susan True is the CEO of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.

More stories about EASC impact:

Good Times: How Equal Access Santa Cruz County is Bridging the Digital Divide

Video: Bridging the Digital Divide

Farm Discovery & Cruzio: Bringing Internet Learning to a Farm Setting

A student logs into school outside at the Live Earth Farm

For Farm Discovery–a nonprofit that connects our community’s youth to a deeper understanding of agriculture, food, and the environment–2020 was set to be their biggest season yet. They expected to have 3,000 kids at their Live Earth Farm in Pajaro Valley that year between school field trips and their youth camp programs where kids learn farming skills, nutritional skills, and environmental stewardship and how these are delicately intertwined. Then, COVID hit.

Farm Discovery Executive Director, Jessica Ridgeway brings a crate of produce out of a
cooler at Live Earth Farm in Watsonville.

Farm Discovery Reorganizes During Pandemic
Farm Discovery, who generally hires from their local community and often hires alums of their programs, committed to keeping all of their employees and acquired PPP funding to make sure they could keep everyone on staff. Next, they developed a program with the food bank delivering the excess from their harvests to get food to those most at risk during the pandemic. Later in the pandemic, when we had all learned more about how to stay safe with masks, social distancing and limiting interaction to the outdoors, the Farm turned to helping students again.

Turning the Kitchen into a Schoolhouse
“Kids were getting desperate to be together again. We saw this great need for care – something for kids to do and low-risk their parents could leave them to learn,” says Jessica Ridgeway, Executive Director of Farm Discovery. Jessica and her team remodeled their summer program making it possible for kids to be together and make friends while staying in a small, safe pod.

Farm Discovery connects kids with the environment and agriculture and part of that is learning how
to nourish their bodies with fresh produce and hands-on experience with cooking and
food preparation. They cook with what they harvest and eat what they cook.

When the school year started up again, Farm Discovery began a distance learning support program and their kitchen became a schoolhouse. Three days a week, 14 kids came to school at Live Earth Farm so their parents could go to work. Jessica recounts one parent repeatedly telling them that they had saved her life because she’s a single mom, had to work, and couldn’t help her child school from home.

When they aren’t in the kitchen-turned-schoolhouse, students do some of their schoolwork outdoors.

There was a considerable problem though–a lack of an adequate internet connection at the Farm. Like many rural places in our county, internet access is a persistent issue and one more glaringly pronounced as we had to school and work from home during the pandemic. Jessica herself lives remotely and she worried about the students’ ability to participate in their classes: “It’s so frustrating and it just adds one more barrier to learning to have their teacher pausing, and connection drops can really distract the students. Connection can really impact how to engage kids.”

Bringing Internet Access to Farm Discovery
That’s when Driscoll’s stepped in with funding for infrastructure and connected Farm Discovery with Cruzio Internet and the Equal Access Santa Cruz County program. A significant portion of Driscoll’s charitable giving has been dedicated to fostering a safe, healthy, and stimulating environment for children and young adults in the communities where they live and grow. In 2020 alone, they deployed $4M in COVID-relief funds across their growing communities around the world to help alleviate some of the community’s biggest challenges during the pandemic.

Driscoll’s recognized that the County’s challenges evolved beyond food security to educational equity as seen in the Pajaro Valley. “In addition to reliable internet access, we were seeing that there was an urgent need for kids to have a safe space to convene and receive in-person learning support which is why we partnered with Cruzio and Farm Discovery. We were happy to see that the children who needed in-person distance learning support the most were able to receive that and more at Farm Discovery during one of the most difficult times,” said Nishan Moutafian, Driscoll’s Northern California District Manager.

Driscoll’s has helped fund multiple Equal Access Santa Cruz County projects during the pandemic.
Equal Access Santa Cruz is a local initiative to close the digital divide in Santa Cruz County. The
partnership between Cruzio Internet and Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has connected over
300 families in need in the last year.

“We’re delighted to partner with Driscoll’s to improve internet connectivity at Farm Discovery”, says James Hackett, Cruzio’s Director of Business Development. “As a local internet service provider, Cruzio has a unique perspective on the needs of our community and the ability to build out sustainable internet infrastructure for those who need it most. But partnerships are essential to do the work and that’s why we are so grateful to Driscoll’s for their support.” Equal Access Santa Cruz is a partnership between Cruzio Internet and Community Foundation Santa Cruz County along with many other community partners to bridge the digital divide in Santa Cruz County and bring internet to unconnected residents and better infrastructure in underserved areas. “The internet was really bad out here. The connection never met the need. Once we got funding from Driscoll’s and connected to Cruzio, it only took about 2 months from start to end. It’s amazing it could happen so quickly after being a problem for so long,” said Jessica.

Cruzio field tech, Jay, installs a radio at Farm Discovery.

As soon as we knew about it, making sure Farm Discovery got connected was a priority for us at Cruzio. Not only is our Equal Access Santa Cruz program aimed at helping students and closing the digital divide, we also deeply respected Farm Discovery’s response to the pandemic which mirrored our own. They kept employees in their jobs, turned to our community to provide immediate assistance, and restructured in a time of crisis to be there for the community through the long haul of the pandemic and beyond.

A student enjoys class from the treehouse. Now that there’s a better internet connection
at Farm Discovery, it’s easier for kids to be full participants in their online schooling.

Looking back and what’s next
Reflecting on the pandemic and the things everyone did to come together, Jessica says, “People really dropped everything to get stuff done. We sometimes get so bogged down in the red tape of things, but we made things work to support people.” At Cruzio we agree. The pandemic brought a huge shift in how we work and opened up the possibility of community effort to make necessities–like internet access and programs for students and families–possible. We’re making huge improvements in ways that were never possible before.

It’s still touch and go what the remainder of this year will look like for Farm Discovery while schools figure out how to coordinate students and if field trips will be possible in the new school year. But overall, things are looking up and Farm Discovery has great plans for the next year such as hiring more local teens and staff and making their programs bigger. Jessica thanks a generous community that has been supportive throughout the pandemic for making this possible.

Downtown Deals to Help You Restart

Santa Cruz County is in the yellow tier, the California economy is set to open up June 15th, and the Downtown community is rebuilding itself after over a year of staying home! We’ve been here throughout the pandemic to support however we can and we want to be here for everyone now as Downtown opens back up.

We’re offering a Downtown promotion to help out. If you’re a business opening your doors, we want to help lower your reopening costs so you can focus on welcoming back your customers. Sign up for Santa Cruz Fiber and enjoy the first three months completely free. See if Fiber is available for you here.

If you’re a freelancer, or remote worker ready to ditch the kitchen table and get back out into a more collaborative workspace, we want to make your entry to coworking – or your return to coworking – as easy as possible. Sign up for a Cruzioworks coworking membership and don’t pay anything for the first 3 months. We expect coworking to make a huge comeback post-shutdown so be sure to claim your spot before we fill up!

These promotions will last through September 1st, 2021. Give us call at (831)459-6301×1 or contact us at and we’ll get you started.

Happy reopening and welcome back!

Emergency Broadband Benefit: Your Questions Answered

What is the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that provides a temporary discount on monthly broadband bills for qualifying low-income households.

What discount is available on Cruzio services?
Eligible households can receive up to a $50/month discount on your broadband service and associated equipment rentals

Who is eligible?
To find out if you’re eligible, go to and click ‘Apply Now’.

Can I qualify directly through Cruzio’s Equal Access program?
No, you cannot qualify for EBB simply by being eligible for EASC subsidies, you need to apply separately.

How long does the discount last?
The program is temporary in nature. The program will end when the fund runs out of money, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner.

What happens when it runs out?
Subscribing households will be subject to Cruzio’s undiscounted rates and general terms and conditions at the end of the program if they continue to receive service.

If I sign up with Cruzio, can I only ever apply my EBB to Cruzio services?
No, you may transfer their EBB Program benefit to another provider at any time.

Cruzio Newsletter #207

Continue reading

Join the Cruzio Team

Cruzio Internet is hiring in 2021! Come join the Cruzio team, a local Internet Service Provider in Santa Cruz, and help us build local broadband. We’re growing our team and expect to hire up to 20 new Field Technicians and Technical Service Representatives this year. 

Work with a fun and supportive team local to the Santa Cruz area.

As the Equal Access Santa Cruz project gains more traction across Santa Cruz County we’re growing our team to fill the need and get everyone connected. So far we’ve connected over 200 student families during the pandemic and are aiming to connect many more in 2021. Our project has expanded to more school districts, low-income housing units, UCSC student programs, and senior living facilities.

We train employees on the job and are seeking entry-level applicants who have an interest in gaining installation, technical, and customer service skills. 

We’re scheduling appointments for a Zoom Interview Hiring Fair and we’d love to hear from all interested applicants. Reach out to us at and let us know some times you are available for a Zoom interview.

We can’t wait to hear from you and meet the new members of our team!

-The Folks at Cruzio

Equal Access Santa Cruz FAQ

What’s Equal Access Santa Cruz?
Equal Access Santa Cruz (EASC) is a local initiative to try to bridge the digital divide in Santa Cruz County. This project is spearheaded by Cruzio Internet, working with Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, Pajaro Valley Unified School District, and other local organizations.

How’s it work?
Cruzio is providing high-speed broadband to qualifying individuals and families for $0-$15/mo depending on their need. Need is determined by the school districts and enrollment in a student subsidized lunch program.

How can get this low-cost service?
We started EASC focused on students in need, especially in South County. That’s still our focus but we’ve also expanded eligibility by working with senior services and fire relief organizations.

What’s the Equal Access Challenge?
We’ve committed to providing subsidized connections totaling no fewer than the number of full-price connections we sell in 2021. Makes sense? If we sell 500 super-fast internet services at $75/mo, we’ll provide 500 for $0 or $15/mo. If we sell 1,000, we’ll provide a 1,000. Simple. For every single full-price signup, we’ll add one more free or subsidized connection. See if you’re eligible for Wireless Pro or Santa Cruz Fiber here.

Is this some sort of slowed-down version of the internet?
Heck no. Unlike some of the bigger ISPs, Equal Access service is exactly the same connection that we sell full price. Fast download and upload, low latency, no data caps. Everything anyone would need for home schooling, video conferencing, etc.

Is this just for one year?
We hope not. We’ve committed to provide each low-cost connection for at least 3 years. If we are able to secure more funding, we’ll keep growing the network and adding more families in the years ahead.

This is great, how else can I help?
If you’re already a Cruzio customer or you just want to help bridge the digital divide, you can add a recurring gift to your Cruzio bill or make a one-time donation through the Community Foundation. If you’re not in a position to donate at the moment, you can still help by spreading the word. Share the Equal Access Santa Cruz website or share from Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Cruzio Internet, Equal Access Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education

Cruzio Internet headquarters

we’re working, but not many of us are in our building

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.”


Cruzio building

877 Cedar Street

FAQ Updated on 3/30/21

Is Cruzioworks open?

Yes, we’re open, and we’re staying safe! To be honest, we never really closed, however, we have strongly encouraged all non-essential workers to stay away from the space until the shelter in place order was lifted. We have been diligently working over through the past year to welcome back everybody else, and can’t wait to see all of your wonderful faces!

So what’s different?

We have been following state and local guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety, including limiting entrance points to direct the flow of traffic, no longer permitting food and drink consumption in the common space, and a new check-in system at the front desk that has been designed around sanitization. We also have a strict mask policy we are enforcing seriously. It may take a little time to get used to the changes, but they’re important to create a safe, and great environment at Cruzioworks.

What other steps are you taking?

You’ll see a lot of subtle changes to the coworking space we think you’ll appreciate:

  • Plexiglass shields for the entire front desk
  • We upgraded our HVAC filters to the EPA recommended MERV13 filters
  • Outdoor desk space for 9-5, 24/7, and Office Members to work in
    the fresh air, and also for a great space to eat and drink.
  • Arrows and floor markings indicating which way traffic should
    flow down a hallway or how far apart you should stand while waiting.
  • Automatic hand sanitizer stations for all meeting rooms and other
    shared areas.
  • Helpful signage encouraging safe behavior
  • Added air purifiers and UV lights to the restrooms
  • A check-in station at the front desk where you can sanitize and
    check for symptoms.
  • Restrooms are now single-occupancy and there are lids on the
    toilets which should be put down after use.

We have reimagined our Atrium space to ensure every desk is spaced 8 to 9 feet apart. Please don’t move these desks! They are spaced to ensure the health and safety of our rad community.

We have reassessed how many people can safely sit in a meeting room together according to county guidelines. Please pay heed to the signage on the doors!

We’re also at a point where we’re ready to take a limited number of new memberships. If you’re looking for a space to work, contact us, we have some great solutions available for you.

Tell me more about this check-in station and floor arrows.

All Cruzioworks members will be required to use the Google Symptom checker at and sign a clipboard once per day when they first arrive verifying they are symptom-free and haven’t been out of the country in the last two weeks.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are making all doors to the atrium space and workstations ‘exit only’ except for the front door of the lobby. This will help us to ensure everybody checks in and to make sure we can reduce the probability of somebody with symptoms entering the space. We want to stress that while this may be inconvenient, it is truly for the health and safety of everybody at Cruzioworks, the Santa Cruz Community, and beyond.

Can you get into specifics about meeting room capacity? How will this impact my twenty-person model train enthusiast meetings? You know I’m loco for locomotives!

*Sighs* I’m keenly aware of this, choo choo dude. For now, we won’t be having large gatherings, meetings, or events. We ask that you follow occupancy signage for our meeting rooms. The Ross Classroom can safely accommodate 6 people, Edison Meeting Room can hold 1, and Tesla Meeting Room maxes out at 2.

I should probably wear a mask, yeah? I heard you mention that earlier…

Of course, you should! Actually, it’s not in any way a choice. County guidelines require masks indoors, and the recent statewide order requires masks everywhere else. The only time you may remove your mask is if you are in a private office, suite, or meeting room by yourself with the door closed. Per county guidelines, once a guest enters the office you must don your mask. Whether you are working in the corner of the Atrium, or walking back to your meeting room, or even hanging out in your cool private Workstation, a mask is required at all times. Those who do not adhere to these rules will be asked to leave and repeat offenders will risk having their memberships revoked. Sorry, but this is serious folks. If you need a mask, please let us know. We have lovely masks available at the front desk.

I heard you mention food and drinks aren’t allowed in the space either. Can you let me know why??

Until further notice, please avoid eating and drinking in the atrium, including workstations. We have provided outdoor spaces to eat and drink. This is in accordance with our state and local mask policies so as to keep the space as safe as possible. Plus, it’s summer! Go out and get some sun and enjoy the incredible Santa Cruz weather!

Can I still have guests here?

We understand that to run your business, you sometimes need to have guests and clients in the space. All visitors need to check-in at the front desk, follow our entry procedures, and abide by all rules. As usual, you as members are responsible for the behavior of your guests. We’d also strongly encourage you to, whenever possible, meet outside or, better yet, online.

What else can I expect when I enter the building?

We mentioned the check-in station earlier. If you arrive before 9am in the morning, or after 6pm at night because you have a 24/7 membership, please use our check-in and sanitation station on the honor system so we don’t have to bug you later. If you are symptomatic you will be asked to leave and may return 14 days from the onset of symptoms or your encounter with a COVID-positive individual, or following a negative test. We will have digital thermometers on hand if you feel feverish and would like to verify this.

To protect the health of our employees, we request that you maintain at least six feet of distance from Cruzio staff and coworking members whenever possible. And wear your mask!

What should I do if I have a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19?

If you have symptoms or test positive with COVID-19 we ask that you notify us immediately so we can conduct contact-tracing and take further steps. We’d also require that you not return to the workspace for at least 14 days and be symptom and med-free for at least 72 hours, or until you’ve tested negative for COVID-19… What are those symptoms again?

People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Back to more practical matters: where’s the printer?

You probably noticed that we moved the printer/copier/fax/scanner. You’ll find it in the very back of the Atrium near the Cruzio Data Center door and Cruzioworks lockers.

How does mail work?

We have fully resumed normal mail delivery. We are no longer on the “opt-in” system we used temporarily during our brief hiatus. If you receive mail at this address you can access your mailbox 24/7. It’s located near the front desk in the main lobby. Please follow arrows on the floor as that hallway is narrow.

How’s Fred doing and when will the Sentinel Cafe reopen?

Fred’s just fine and he’s looking to reopen the cafe, with new health precautions in the coming months. Stay tuned for more information!

What about ventilation? I heard indoor air wasn’t so great…

Glad you asked. We are making sure to open as many windows as we have, turning on fans each day to ensure maximum air circulation, adjusting our thermostats and HVAC units to circulate a larger percentage of outside air, and will be propping doors open when possible. We are also keeping an eye on the science and resources available and will continue to provide whatever safety measures we can. I can’t stress this enough: safety first!