Author Archives: Alana

Cruzio to Bring Internet Service to San Jerardo Housing Cooperative

Entrance to San Jerardo Cooperative

Equal Access Santa Cruz is taking its model for closing the digital divide through community partnership and community engagement to new areas of need. Equal Access Monterey Bay is a new partnership between Cruzio Internet, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, the Central Coast Broadband Consortium. Its first project is to bring reliable wireless internet to the San Jerardo housing cooperative located just outside of Salinas.

Thanks to a grant from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Cruzio Internet has been awarded $292,548 to build the infrastructure needed to connect every home in the cooperative. Equal Access Monterey Bay hopes to raise another $200,000 to provide the service completely free to residents for the next 5 years.

The San Jerardo housing cooperative was built by farmworkers in the 1970s. The site was an abandoned labor barracks, which the farmworker families first used as a squatting camp then purchased and transformed.

These families and workers face innumerable challenges. Many members of the community are low income and recently the situation has been even harder as the co-op has faced great difficulties and increased costs related to their water supply. Like many low-income and rural communities across the nation, they also struggle with access to an important resource: a reliable and affordable internet connection.

Addressing the need for real, affordable broadband at San Jerardo would be of immense value to the San Jerardo Cooperative residents who, like the farmworker community as a whole, are struggling.

According to the LA Times, “farmworkers in the state earn about $30,000 a year if they work full time — about half the overall average pay in California. Most work fewer hours.” In fact, the most recent U.S. Department of Labor National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), the average total income of farmworkers is between $15,000 – $17,499 a year for individuals and $20,000 – $24,999 for a family, far below the median income in Monterey County which was $71,015 in 2019.

General manager Horacio Amezquita’s family members are original co-op members and he is intimately familiar with the challenges the community faces.

“The community of San Jerardo is a farmworkers housing Cooperative that needs affordable and reliable internet access. Students here do not have a reliable internet connection and are not able to stay connected in their school classes. Many families in the community can not afford to pay for a reliable internet service. Communities like San Jerardo need to have affordable and reliable internet access for the well-being of present and future generations.”
— Horacio Amezquita, General Manager, San Jerardo Cooperative

Horacio Amezquita, General Manager, San Jerardo

In October our team made a trip out to San Jerardo to survey the site and start making plans for the infrastructure build. Once complete, this project will bring internet directly to the units of 250 permanent residents and 100 seasonal residents, making a huge difference in their day-to-day lives and access to resources.

To help support this project go to Community Foundation for Monterey County.

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.