Author Archives: Alana

A Micro-ISP In The Mountains

If anyone in the world is qualified to run an ISP, it’s Kenneth Adelman. How many people, when asked by tech support staff if they know how to run a traceroute, can answer, “Look at the traceroute source code – it has my name in it”? Adelman co-founded two internet software companies in the 1990s, sold them and retired in his 30s to devote himself to artistic, athletic and environmental pursuits. Now, in addition, he runs a small ISP in his spare time.

Nearly 20 years ago, when he moved up into the mountains near Santa Cruz, Adelman had a T1 line connected to his house to communicate with Cisco, which had bought his first company, TGV. His neighbors, who were struggling to find internet service, pleaded to share his connection, and he obliged. Then their neighbors started asking. As time went on, he incorporated the business, acquired six more T1 lines and shared service wirelessly with 12 households.

As he began to serve farther-away customers, the load grew, and so did his payments to the telephone company. By 2017, putting up a wireless tower made sense. Cruzio was willing to provide 500 Mbps of wireless backhaul to the tower for less than the cost of T1 service, and Adelman now distributes this bandwidth to 35 customers, using primarily Ubiquiti wireless gear. (One customer actually has a fiber optic connection from the tower.) He charges customers between $130 and $300 per month, depending on speeds. Several customers get discounts for relaying services to others.

Connecting each customer takes a lot of work – way more than what a “real ISP” would do, according to Adelman. For liability reasons, he doesn’t install wireless dishes, but he goes up onto rooftops with his neighbors or their contractors and shows them how to do it, and he often adjusts their Wi-Fi for them. He estimates that this upfront work pays off after a year – and keeps on paying. (He has essentially zero churn.)

“Cruzio was interested in supporting people with my business model,” Adelman says. Cruzio offers not only backhaul but also expertise, helping him select hardware, wiring and so forth. “It’s beneficial for both of us because if I sell to them, they get a network built to spec,” he points out. The other benefit Cruzio would get is a group of happy customers it could acquire without marketing costs.

With 35 customers, Adelman is still able to work in an informal, neighborly way. There are no written contracts. One customer pays him in fresh fish. Another helped him with tower work when he broke his leg. For now, he has plenty of bandwidth, and Cruzio could easily double what it supplies him.

So when will he give up his ISP hobby? Not until it starts to seem like real work, Adelman says. If the business keeps growing, he will eventually have to put in a real billing system and hire someone to help with installation – and then it won’t be fun anymore. At that point, it will be time to start talking with Cruzio about selling the system.

Excepted from Broadband Communities Magazine March/April 2019, By Masha Zager
https://www.bbcmag.com/rural-broadband/cruzio-launches-ftth-in-santa-cruz

The Internet is Unfair. Let’s Fix It

Areas with poor interent service are orange – is the map accurate?

We’re proud that the first neighborhood Cruzio connected to our Santa Cruz Fiber network was the El Rio Mobile Home Park on North Pacific Avenue. Building devastatingly fast internet to areas that tend to get overlooked — that’s part of Cruzio’s mission.

So our next step is to get financing for replicating that success, building to other places around the county that have suffered from corporate neglect.

Although parts of our county have excellent, competitive internet right now — and we’re trying to keep it competitive! — there are other areas where expensive satellite service and aging telephone lines are the only, increasingly inadequate, options. By the way, income levels are part of the disparity, but not all of it. Some of the most expensive properties in the county, estates up in the mountains, get low-quality internet.

Cruzio has been pushing our local representatives to take action to get fair access to everyone.

The California Public Utilities Commission maintains a map defining what areas have poor service — making them eligible for grants. We’re looking at the map closely.

We know our community wants two things, internet-wise:
•to get fast, reliable internet at low prices to their own homes and businesses, and
•to make sure everyone else gets it too — regardless of low income or difficult terrain.

Rest assured that Cruzio is working on both fronts as fast as we can.

We’re working on a big project, more on that in the next newsletter!

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Don’t Swim in the Toilet Bowl

There are a lot of places to swim in Santa Cruz. There are some places where you just really, really should not swim. The Toilet Bowl is one of them.

Next to world-class surf break Steamer Lane, this is a spot where people from all over the world are tempted to jump into a wide round area carved out of the soft rock. But the surf gets trapped in there, and the rocks are slippery. Watch the video and be warned.

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What’s Happening With Fiber

1,200 downtown Santa Cruz homes and businesses can now connect to blazingly speedy internet — fiber cables which will scale to their needs for decades to come. Cruzio just installed it a few months ago. And now, that network is underused. Local columnist Nuz called it a Fiber Fumble!

We had some delays — not unusual in construction, right? — but the future is here.

Now it’s time to see what folks do with this bountiful internet offering.

(One idea: sign up now.)

With such a surplus of broadband, how quickly will people take advantage? Nuz notes that we’re behind in signups despite better service, higher speeds, and, well, the local-ness of it all. (The article didn’t mention lower price, but that’s true too: $49.95/mo for gigabit internet).

It’s true that Cruzio took on high upfront costs to build the network and we need a 30 – 50 percent “take rate” to make it all pencil out — that is, over 30 percent of locations that can connect to Cruzio’s Santa Cruz Fiber need to sign up. We’re still behind that total. Maybe it’s the rain?

Hey, downtown folks, your neighbors all around the county are asking when they’re gonna get their fiber. It’s a killer deal on a great service, so please sign up so we can afford to build more!

We know you’ll like it.

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We’ve Got Your Back – How Cruzio Handles Phishing Schemes

privacy logo

Like all ISPs, once in a while, our email users get hit with a phishing scheme. Generally, they’re poorly done and obviously fake, at first glance. This weekend we got hit by a particularly nasty one.

As you can see, it looks pretty sophisticated: not too many obvious typos or grammatical errors. And they stole our logo and header!

This email started hitting our mail users at around 9:30am last Sunday. As it happens, one of the first people to notice was our Chief Technical Officer, Chris Neklason, who right away saw it was a potential security threat to our users and alerted our support team. We immediately contacted the company hosting the rogue site, as well as our email filter provider. Within a couple of hours, the rogue site was taken down and the email had been blocked and deleted from our users’ inboxes. But not before about 100 of our eagle-eyed and responsible customers had notified us of the email and, sadly, a few folks had clicked through.

A couple of things to take away from this:

1. Cruzio has your back
We identify these threats quickly and we have tools to quickly neutralize them. If you do get fooled — and it happens to everyone — change your password and contact us immediately.

2. There are always tell-tale signs
Even though it was a relatively good phishing attempt, there are a few obvious clues in this that reveal it to be spam pretty quickly. First, the actual sender was not an @cruzio mailbox, it was a totally different domain. Secondly, none of the clickable links in the email pointed to the Cruzio site. Pro tip: you can always see where a link is pointing before you click it by hovering your mouse cursor over it — depending what mail tool or browser you’re using, the destination URL will show as a pop-up or in the lower part of the window you’re in. If you do happen to click on the link, most web browsers catch scams fast and almost immediately flash a warning on the page.

As a reminder:
* Don’t enter personal information into any site you’ve reached via email unless you’re 100% sure it’s legitimate. If you have even the slightest doubt, contact the company
* The more information an email asks for, the more suspicious you should be. For example, no one should ever want your Social Security number from an email message
* The more urgent the message, the more suspicious you should be
* There are so many scams, we can’t report every one. But if you see one you feel is serious, or if it’s for a small company, report it to the FBI https://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

Bottom line: if you ever have any doubts about an email that purports to be from Cruzio, play it safe and contact us at cruzio.com/contact or call us at 459-6301 x2. Cruzio is keeping an eye out 24/7, 365 days a year to ensure your security.

Be safe out there!

Turning 30

This year, Cruzio turns 30. So we’ll spend some time throughout 2019 remembering what we built in the past and how it’s helped us build toward a better internet future.

Were you a part of the 1980’s tech scene in Santa Cruz? We’d love to talk to you. Just contact us and we’ll get back to you. If you talked to us for our 25th anniversary 5 years ago (has it been that long?), we’ll be trying to get in touch again. We don’t want to lose track of Santa Cruz’s place in the history of the internet.

We’ll be sure to have a party towards the end of the year. Watch this space, it’ll be a doozy!

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One Idea: Just Don’t Answer Your Email

Last month The Atlantic Magazine proposed an unusual solution to email overload. They call it “Inbox Infinity.”

This one’s the complete opposite of another recently popular idea, “Inbox Zero,” where you always empty your mailbox, every day. By contrast, Inbox Infinity means never answer your email at all.

“In 2019, I suggest you let it all go,” opines author Taylor Lorenz.

We’ll let you decide which result to aim for, but It seems like a good thing that people are working on this issue.

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When the Weather’s Bad…

In sunny weather, Cruzio’s all-pro field team installs fast new connections to our independent network. We also spend a lot of time and investment upgrading the parts of the network nobody sees, making it more robust and redundant.

We do a lot of preparation when the weather’s good because sometimes the weather is challenging, as it has been the last few weeks.

When it’s rainy, dark and cold — even snowy in some spots! — Cruzio is out there making sure all our equipment is working properly. That can mean sudden calls, late nights, and cold, wet conditions.

We take our responsibility as a lifeline service very seriously. And we’re proud to have a crew committed to making things work, even when the going is tough. Special thanks to Ali, Dan, Jay, Frost, and the rest of the team. That’s a 24/7, all-weather group.

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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.