Author Archives: Alana

Equal Access & Pajaro Valley Shelter Services

Maria Sotelo’s daughters pictured here: Left: Yuriana 8th grade; Right: Jacqueline 12th grade. Jacqueline is planning to attend Cabrillo College after high school graduation to become a dental hygienist. “Ever since the pandemic hit, my daughters have been asked to do most of their schoolwork on their computers. Having internet access has made it so convenient for my kids to complete their homework at home.” -Maria Sotelo.

In January of this year, Cruzio Internet and Pajaro Valley Shelter Services (PVSS) partnered to bring internet connections to local families transitioning out of homelessness. This is the latest community partnership and infrastructure project funded by Equal Access Santa Cruz County, an initiative to close the digital divide in our region.

Pajaro Valley Shelter Services is a non-profit with a mission to help families experiencing homelessness transition into self-sufficiency and stable housing. At any given time, PVSS has up to 130 individuals – children and adults – residing in its shelter and housing programs and serves over 215 individuals annually. Homelessness is an issue pervasive in Santa Cruz County. As of the last count in 2019, there were over 2,000 estimated homeless individuals in the County, and that number has only seemed to increase since then. The pandemic was of no help. PVSS reports that the pandemic disproportionately impacted the predominantly Latinx, extremely low-income families that PVSS serves. In April 2020, a month into the pandemic, 57% of PVSS families lost their employment due to shutdowns and business slowdowns.

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An Exciting Year at Cruzio in 2021

Happy New Year from Cruzio! We’re so optimistic for this next year and have so much exciting news to share with you. But first, a recap of 2021:

2021 garners some mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was a huge improvement from the absolute panic that was 2020, but it was also a year-long period of limbo and uncertainty. This year, we’re still waiting to see how the latest variant plays out with some skeptical optimism for the worst to be over soon. While last year might not have brought the peace of mind we’d hoped for, it did bring unimaginable progress that will carry us through this year.

We kept coworking going
Coworking is one among many industries to take a hard hit during the pandemic. We have such a beautiful space and community here at Cruzioworks and it was necessary but challenging to witness that put on indefinite hold during the height of the pandemic. It’s a rocky road before we’re back in full swing but in the meantime, we’re here for our members and looking forward to growing our community in 2022. A number of dedicated Cruzioworks members and our stellar Works team kept the coworking spirit alive. We owe a special thanks to our team at the Front Desk, Alex, Carlos, and Pily, for keeping all the plates spinning and keeping up with complicated, ever-changing mandates and guidelines. It’s a huge job being responsible for keeping everyone safe while maintaining an accommodating workspace, and this team really did an incredible job at balancing all of that!

Cruzio Internet headquarters

We grew our local and independent network and continued to push for Equal Access
We’re always growing our network and expanding to reach more residents and businesses in Santa Cruz County. This year was one of our biggest years for expansion yet. We’ve increased our overall coverage with 38 new points of network distribution and over 700 new wireless and fiber connections. We made considerable progress in covering more of Scotts Valley – a particularly tricky area to serve with so many trees and mountains. We also brought infrastructure to Watsonville and brought on more customers in the Parajo and Watsonville areas this year than ever before in the history of our network.

Another part of our work that has added importance in the pandemic is the Equal Access Santa Cruz initiative, a partnership between Cruzio, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, the County Office of Education, school districts and multiple local organizations. Equal Access kicked off in 2020 at the height of the pandemic when students schooled exclusively from home, leaving many families to burden a compounding crisis between the pandemic, and their children’s education.

This year, Equal Access Santa Cruz raised almost $2,000,000 and we’ve been able to build out new infrastructure to reach an additional 2,000 students who are now eligible for internet access. The funding from community donations, business partnerships, and government awarded grant money made it possible to bring internet to those most in need and in areas long neglected for necessary broadband infrastructure upgrades.

Thanks to Equal Access Santa Cruz, we grew our coverage in Watsonville by over 30% in areas that hadn’t previously had adequate infrastructure.

We brought internet to Buena Vista and Tierra Alta labor housing
Our biggest project this year through Equal Access Santa Cruz was at the Buena Vista and Tierra Alta labor housing in Pajaro Valley in March. The complex has 143 units and houses about 150 of students who previously had no reliable or affordable connection to the internet even as they tried to school throughout the pandemic. Thanks to Equal Access funding, our partnership with the school districts and housing authority, and our infrastructure planning, we were able to connect the entire complex with direct lines to each unit in record time. We dedicated two of our teams to be out there every day for the month of March so that when families returned to the camp in April, their children would be able to participate in their classes. It was a huge success that has become a blueprint for our projects moving forward, as well as one that we are sharing with other small ISPs looking to make a difference in their communities.

We brought internet to Farm Discovery
In April we brought internet to Farm Discovery at Live Earth Farm, also located in Parajo Valley. This was a smaller build but no build is too small to need internet service, especially if you’re a remote community in the Pajaro Valley hills. Bringing internet to Farm Discovery meant they could continue their schooling program which helped working parents find a safe space to leave their kids during the day where they could participate in school. Thanks to a donation from Driscolls, we hooked up the Farm as well as used it as a crucial distribution point for the small community surrounding it which previously had only limited and expensive options available for broadband.

We’re excited about what Equal Access has in store for 2022 and we think you’ll be too
Equal access Santa Cruz will be bringing better internet to the Live Oak area in the first half of this year. We’re working with the school districts to grow our coverage in the area, which, despite being in-town and densely populated, doesn’t have many reliable and affordable options. Additionally, this is an area that stands out to us because there are many low-income families in the school district who are the most vulnerable to internet access inequity. Our initial plans aim to add 4 new sites with 400-800 available new connections.

Equal Access is also growing beyond Santa Cruz and we’ve taken the model to Monterey County. Cruzio Internet has been awarded a grant to build infrastructure to the San Jerardo housing co-op in Salinas. Once complete, this project will bring internet directly to the units of 250 permanent residents and 100 seasonal residents. The co-op is a low-income farmworker community and this will make a meaningful difference in their day-to-day lives and access to resources.

We’re continuing to support local business in 2022
It’s a big year ahead for restoring local business and so we’re dedicated to supporting that effort in the new year. We’ve partnered with the City’s Economic Development Board to help with their Downtown Pops program. Participating Pop-Up shops will have internet connections free of charge for the duration of the program. We’ll also be rolling out a promotion for new business signups this Spring.

And some very exciting news
Finally, we have a very exciting announcement about our growth into San Mateo County! More on that story very soon!

It’s been an exciting year and we’re nothing but excited for 2022. Thank you to everyone on our network – whether you’ve been here with us since ’89 or you’re a brand new customer – for your continued support of local and independent internet. Here’s to 2022 and a great year for all of us!

Coastside.Net and Cruzio have joined forces

San Mateo and Santa Cruz County ISPs merge

Santa Cruz and San Mateo have a lot in common. We’ve both got great lighthouses, for one

We’re delighted to announce that Cruzio Internet and Coastside.Net are joining forces. Because we’re such similar companies, and we’ve been friendly for so many years (decades!), this should be an easy and beneficial merger.

Most important things first: if you’re looking to login to your Coastside.net email login here.

Below we’ll try to answer your basic questions about the merger. If you have any questions about this or about your services or account, reach out anytime at Cruzio.com/contact.

Who is Cruzio?
Cruzio is one of the oldest independent ISPs in the country and in recent years we’ve grown our wireless and fiber service footprint significantly. As we’ve expanded, we’ve worked with community partners to include low-income families through our Equal Access initiative, which we hope to expand in San Mateo County.

OK, who’s Coastside.Net?
Coastside.net is San Mateo’s largest independent ISP. They cover large areas of Half Moon Bay, El Granada, Pescadero and La Honda, and all the way into Palo Alto and Redwood City. They offer similar services to Cruzio and have been around for almost as long.

I’m a Coastside customer, what’s this mean to me?
First of all, nothing will immediately change. You’ll still keep getting a bill from Coastside and enjoying the same great service. If you need customer service, just contact Coastside as usual. Over the next weeks and months we’ll be combining our operations and you’ll start getting billing statements and support from Cruzio. As we combine our resources, we’ll have more ability to support you, and we’ll also be strengthening the network, and even rolling new services in the Coastside footprint.

How do I contact Cruzio if I need support?
All our contact info is available at cruzio.com/contact. You can call us at 831.459.6301 or toll-free at (800) 303-3302, or swing by and see us sometime at 877 Cedar St #150, Santa Cruz CA.

I was a Skyline wireless customer, what’s this mean for me?
The Skyline wireless network is now part of the Cruzio network. We’ll be working with the Coastside team (including Bill, the founder of Skyline) to make sure the Skyline network is better-maintained than ever and we’re offering the best possible service and speeds.

Will you be keeping an office in the Half Moon Bay area?
We have no immediate plans to move from the current offices at 525-B Obispo Rd in El Granada. As the months pass, we’ll be looking at our office and warehouse space needs.

What about my Coastside email address and/or website?
No change. Your Coastside.net email address will continue to function as before. Coastside-hosted websites will continue to operate in the same way.

What’s happening to Rob and Steve?
They’re still on board! They’re joining the Cruzio team and will continue to be integral parts of daily operation, supporting all our customers and helping build a better and bigger network.

What does this mean for me as a Cruzio customer?
Nothing immediately. But by joining forces with Coastside, Cruzio is now significantly better equipped to grow, build better products, and support and maintain our local, independent network. The future is bright indeed.

For real? That’s a big expansion of Cruzio’s coverage (I hear you’re going to Monterey too?). Are you sure you can maintain service quality?
A big part of why we joined up with Coastside is to bring on the skills and experience of a talented team. Rob and Steve have years of experience running a network and by adding them to Cruzio’s team we dramatically increase our abilities to serve our community. We’re also hiring new techs and expanding all the time. If you’re interested in joining our team go to https://cruzio.com/careers/

I’m looking the Cruzio website, seems like you offer some higher speeds — can I upgrade my connection?
We’re bringing higher overall broadband capacity to the Coastside network right away and will be looking at where we can offer faster speeds very soon. If you want to register interest, go to faster.cruzio.com and fill out an inquiry. We’ll get back to you as soon as we have news.

Coastside.Net is Now Part of Cruzio

Hello Everyone,

I have some very exciting news to share with you all … Coastside.Net is now part of the Cruzio Internet family!

I am proud to say this is not the end of Coastside.Net, rather the next chapter in our evolution of doing what we love: providing quality internet in today’s fast-paced digital age with personal, friendly service and support. This next chapter is the merging of like-minded people to do bigger and better things.

Steve Dennis and myself will continue to be integral parts of daily operation and always available to support you. We wish Jeff the best on his retirement, and to Austin with his continued studies at CSU Chico. We are blessed to have the continued advice and support of Bill Prince and Georgia Stigall, who did the heavy lifting to make Skyline Broadband a reality.

I am excited to join forces with the awesome folks at Cruzio. Like Coastside.Net, Cruzio’s roots date back to the dawn of the internet. And, like Coastside.Net, Cruzio is independently owned and committed to being a valued partner in the community.

On behalf of myself, my family and all Coastside.Net staff (past and present), I want to thank you for your patronage and support over the years. We look forward to being part of the bright future of Cruzio and continuing to bring you the high level of service and support that you deserve.

Best,
Robert Genovesi

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