Author Archives: Peggy Dolgenos

Keep an Extra Eye Out for Scammers

internet security logo

Whenever there’s a crisis — like the current war in Ukraine — spammers and scammers take advantage. You may receive extra email or calls soliciting donations, or you may find a higher amount of more convincing phishing email.

We’re even being warned, in a very general way, about possible hacking by Russia. Earlier this month the FBI announced it had prevented a massive hacking project on American routers and firewall devices by the Russian military. Many forms of computer hacking and interruption depend on large networks of virus-infected computers (“botnets”), whose owners don’t know their machines are carrying out nefarious tasks. That can affect home and office computer equipment.

Internet security experts around the country are urging extra caution.

Our users and community are not likely to be the specific target of any particular scheme, but large sweeps looking for access to private and small business computers can sometimes catch unsuspecting people.

Resist hacking! Some principles to remember:

  • The more urgent it seems, the more likely it is to be a scam
  • Don’t submit personal information and passwords to forms you’re directed to in unexpected email or texts, even if the sender seems familiar
  • Directly contact whoever supposedly wrote the email (bank, relative who’s apparently in trouble, technical service) directly if you have any doubts. Don’t just answer the email or stay on the phone, use an independent way of reaching them
  • Check whether you have compromised accounts or passwords by visiting haveibeenpwned.com
  • If your personal data has been compromised, or just every so often for the heck of it, change your passwords. Use different, unusual passwords for sites where security is most important (like a bank)

If you have one of those moments when you suspect you’ve fallen for an internet scheme, don’t panic. You’ll need to change your passwords right away. Feel free to contact Cruzio to ask for advice.

Note from Cruzio’s CEO

Kitten at the laptopWhat area does Cruzio serve? Well, that’s changing. Our footprint is getting bigger.

Cruzio recently merged with neighboring best-buddy ISP Coastside Net. Coastside is based in San Mateo County, and Cruzio realized we’re not hyperlocal anymore.

Now we’re regional. But what’s our region called?

Our marketing staff have puzzled over this change. We used to say, “Santa Cruz County” in front of everything we did.

And we loved highlighting Santa Cruz County, although it’s a bit difficult having a city (Santa Cruz) and a county (Santa Cruz) with the same name. That’s challenging for advertising because people tended to think we provided internet just in the City. They didn’t realize Cruzio reaches a lot of odd places where you wouldn’t expect great internet to be.

We get around.

Now we’ve got even more territory to name. We all have a lot in common. The stretch of mountains-to-sea running from Pacifica all the way down and around Monterey Bay is an area of great natural beauty dotted with charming towns. Yes, if you are reading this, you likely live in a charming town. Or at least near one.

In the springtime we’ve got fields of brilliant yellow cowslips and starry purple ice plants. Cedars give way to scrub oaks give way to towering redwood trees, each with a distinct color, shape, and smell. Seals or sea lions nap at our beaches — some beaches even host elephant seals.

We surf. We sail. We bicycle. Our roads zigzag up into the mountains, our farms draw straight furrows below, and some of us may work in Silicon Valley but we’re much happier when we’re home.

We have common struggles, too. It’s hard to find housing. It takes way too long to get from one place to another on our crowded highways. We worry about fire in one season and flood in another. A lot of us struggle with the cost of living in such a beautiful place. We’re often far from needed services, especially during crises like fires or heavy storms.

As a region, we have a lot of decisions we need to make, and we do better when working together. More reliable internet reaching more places should help us.

So what’s the name of our new service area? We’re cogitating on that, but we don’t know yet. If you have any suggestions, send them in! Meanwhile Cruzio will continue to connect people from all around our unnamed region with the best internet possible, because we live here, too.

Our Very Own Tech Titans

James Hackett and Chris Frost, builders of internet

James Hackett and Chris Frost, Titans of Tech

Chris Frost and James Hackett are building internet to underserved areas of Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, and San Mateo Counties. And they won an award for it!

On March 2nd, in a chilly but thrilling outdoor event, our very own James Hackett and Chris Frost were lauded as “Titans of Tech” by Santa Cruz Works.

Frost and James well deserve their awards. Other local tech companies sell software or apps nationwide, which is impressive, but Cruzio allows people in our own community to create and use those apps and that software. We help people participate in the 21st century world of tech.

But we have to compete with some of the biggest corporations in the country. Staying competitive means we’ve had to build a whole new communications network, one that’s locally owned and operated specifically for local residents and businesses. Because so many people need better internet, we’ve extended from Santa Cruz County to reach further up the coast, to San Mateo County, and further south, to parts of Monterey and San Benito counties.

Building stuff is what we do. We set our goals high, and we accomplish our work quickly and efficiently. Frost and James are the leaders of our efforts and they do a remarkable job managing and guiding construction, even during a pandemic.

And then there’s our Equal Access initiative.

We’re not just building out a huge independent telecommunications network— which started from scratch in 2009 — we’re also helping low income people up and down the Central Coast access work, school, and social services over the internet. James and Frost have been dynamic leaders leaders in that important effort, too.

It can be very complicated to bring together all the resources needed to get internet to these difficult-to-serve areas. Frost and James have been able to forge important relationships so that projects move smoothly through their many stages. We are lucky to have partners such as Susan True from Santa Cruz Community Foundation and Jason Borgen from the County Office of Education. They are remarkable leaders who deserve awards as well.

Providing service to people who need it is our mission. And since everyone needs good internet, and needs increasingly more and better internet, we have a lot to do. We are lucky to have a tremendous staff and smart, compassionate leaders to get us there.

And no, James and Frost are not opening an In-N-Out burger. That was an April Fools joke. If an In-N-Out does open, we’ll happily provide it with internet.

And lastly, much admiration for Matthew Swinnerton, an event-planning madman and local icon, who allowed himself to be doused with 5 buckets of ice — we mentioned it was a chilly night that night, right? — at the event. Video here.

Cruzio Wins Grants to Build Internet

San Jerardo migrant farmworker community gets broadband connections
You may have heard the Cruzio Internet recently won grants to build high-speed broadband to low income communities in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.
This is the result of a determined, long-term effort by Cruzio and our partners — educators and philanthropists — to get internet where it’s most needed.

Funding for internet infrastructure has been lacking for many years

Solving the digital divide is complicated. You can’t deliver internet without a physical network, which is expensive and time-consuming to build. Parts of Cruzio’s service area are rural or low income, and free market forces just haven’t compelled construction to those places.

Several years ago, Cruzio turned our frustration with the digital divide into energy towards a solution. We set up our Equal Access program to build long-needed infrastructure.

We looked at public funding for internet, But till now, government programs promising better internet have generally been waylaid by big corporate ISPs. The programs just dumped money into existing networks (cough! shareholders’s pockets), perhaps helping to pay a family’s bills in the short term but doing nothing to improve available connectivity.

To the contrary: often, public funds helped sustain the status quo, not improve it.

The digital gap was widening

Due to a lack of investment, large parts of our region have been limited to infrastructure that can only carry 6 megabits per second, while cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where there’s a lot of competition from independent ISPs, often have access to gigabit or even multi-gigabit connections. That means an urban internet user in a prosperous neighborhood often has access to a connection that is dozens of times better than a low-income or rural user. Sometimes over a hundred times better. And the divide is growing.

Cruzio looked for a way to actually build to unserved areas, and what we could not find in public funding we found in community partnerships.

Local philanthropists stepped in

Because schoolchildren are one of the most important groups to be served by internet — they need it to keep up with classwork — from the beginning we found common ground with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and other educators around our service area. Together we worked on establishing better internet opportunities for low income families.

We applied for grants, but at first there wasn’t much money available. We’re lucky that our local community took notice. The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County connected us to needed funds. Private donations from Driscolls, the Watsonville Rotary, and some anonymous contributors joined our own contributions to put hundreds of families online, and will for years to come.

Cruzio members, always the best sorts of people in our unbiased opinion, have also been contributing. We love it when you pay a little extra on your monthly bill as a donation. Here’s how to sign up to support internet for a student who needs it.

Lately, government funding has become available

Private donations were, and will always be, vital to support internet equity. But finally, government money is available and our Equal Access program, already in full swing, has been able to win two grants — one from Santa Cruz County and one from Monterey County.

Because we are experienced network builders and know our area so well, we were able to present compelling proposals for fast, economical improvements in internet availability. And we’re quickly fulfilling our promises.. The ink was barely dry on the Santa Cruz County grant when we set up the first three new hubs in the Watsonville area. Four more are in the works right now, in Live Oak. And we are surveying for more in other parts of the county. People really need better internet right now, so we will use up the funds very quickly!

Cruzio’s putting all those funds to work

We’re working right now on four sites in northern Monterey County which should be operational this summer.  Each site serves dozens of buildings, sometimes translating to hundreds of people. As in Santa Cruz, all those folks will have access to our standard quality internet (which is quite good internet) at $15/mo.

Many thanks to Santa Cruz County Supervisors Koenig, Coonerty, Friend, and McPherson, and to the Monterey County IT Department — especially Alex Zheng and Eric Chatham — and Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, thanks Freny Cooper! We’ll do you all proud.

More details about this project in this Santa Cruz Local article.

Coastside Net and Cruzio Join 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

Big News!

The very big news is that Cruzio has merged with our neighbor ISP just to the north — Coastside Net. Welcome Coastside subscribers! We know you’ll like working with our friendly staff, and we’re happy to have the chance to serve you.

We Both Started Early

Here’s a little history. Like Cruzio, Coastside started up in the early dot-com wildcat era when people wanted to get everything from library card catalogues to psychic readings onto the internet as fast as possible. Thousands of internet providers sprang up to fill the demand. Every hobbyist gave it a shot. Even David Bowie had his own ISP!

Not long after, in 1999-2000, the dot-com boom ended. The overinflated industry was brought down to earth. Although the need for the internet didn’t disappear — My Space and other social media was lurking on the horizon, after all — small ISPs were mostly muscled out by big corporations who’d suddenly taken an interest when it looked as though a profit could be made.

Coastside Net, like Cruzio, was one of the independents that survived — against odds — to maintain the early culture of the internet: creative, clever, Net Neutral, respectful of privacy.  And we both ran our businesses in a friendly, human way.

Indies Make the Internet Better for Consumers

Competing against some of the largest — and most disliked — companies in the country isn’t easy, and independent ISPs do it every day.

“Local, independent ISPs not only provide competition, helping keep prices down and improve service quality,” said James Hackett, Cruzio’s long-time Director of Business Operations, “we’re also more nimble and imaginative with our solutions, and we’re far more connected with our communities than those big corporate giants.”

Smaller companies also do better when working together, sharing tips with other independents around the country. Cruzio’s Director of Technology and INfrastructure, Chris Frost, has served for years as President of FISPA, the national association of independent ISPs (it’s Federated ISP Association, if you want to decode the acronym). He got the gig because he’s always bringing people together to make technology work.

We’ve Been Buddies for a Long Time

Cruzio is friendly with lots of ISPs. But our very favorite ISP has been Coastside Net, and not just because the drive up Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay is world-class gorgeous. Over the years Coastside Net and Cruzio developed a close relationship, even loaning each other equipment to help out when needed. Both companies stand up during fire season, helping mountain lookouts stay connected. We support the ham community, who keep emergency radio communications up and running and with whom it’s fun to geek out.

And We’re Both Builders

There’s a lot of network out there that needs to be built, and we want to get to it. Cruzio and Coastside Net are both experienced with construction of fiber optic and fixed wireless networks. These technologies can deliver a lot of internet — more all the time.

In 2020 Cruzio launched Equal Access, a program designed to address issues of digital equity in our region. Since then we’ve connected over 700 families to free or very low-cost internet. We’re ready to do the same in neighboring counties. Coastside Net, just to our north, shared our priorities.

So we Tied the Knot

As we talked about it, it made sense for Cruzio and Coastside Net to take the next step and merge our companies. At the end of 2021, that’s just what we did.

“We’ve worked closely with Cruzio for years so when the opportunity arose to join forces, we could all see what great sense it made”, said Coastside Net CEO, Rob Genovesi. “I couldn’t be more excited for the future and the great things we can accomplish together.”

The Coastside community responded to the announcement with congratulations and enthusiastic encouragement. They have a lot in common with Cruzio members. They’re just the best.

And we welcome Rob and Steve to the Cruzio team! They are smart, experienced, and fun to work with. We think you’ll enjoy meeting them and you’ll see us continue to make progress towards our goal: good quality, reasonably priced internet for all.

More questions? Check out our FAQ on the merger.

Activism Preserved Internet for Some Rural Folks

Bonny Doon View

Beautiful views and difficult terrain for internet in Bonny Doon

Lack of internet in rural areas is an enormous problem, affecting people all over the USA — even in large parts of tech-savvy California. And despite Santa Cruz County’s part in bringing about the internet we know today, some parts of our county lack decent internet too.

As alert newsletter readers know, Cruzio has been sounding the alarm about inequality of internet access for many years. Then, earlier this year, the issue hit home in a devastating way. Some of the copper lines Cruzio leased from AT&T had degraded so much that we could no longer provide reliable service to a small number of our more rural customers. That left a few dozen customers in a bind. Their service wasn’t good, sure, but what else could they do?

Dooners Take Action

The rural residents didn’t take the situation lying down. Many had been through tough times already last year, when fires destroyed so much of their community. They’d had to deal with rebuilding and many other challenges. And here was another: internet. We were disturbed that options were fewer than we’d imagined for some folks, and kept searching for answers.

Bonny Doon residents Phil McManus and Jodi Frediani got super-involved. They appeared with us on a KSQD radio show. We accompanied them to meetings and made public appeals to local elected officials. After so many years of no action, we were worried that folks would be left without options. But the Dooners got the attention of Representative Anna Eshoo, and that was key.

Anna Eshoo to the Rescue

Anna Eshoo is co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus and a Member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology in the House of Representatives. That means she is an important political figure in the telecommunications world.

When Eshoo heard of from the activists, she, in turn, took action. She arranged calls with AT&T executives who could actually make a change to the situation — something Cruzio had never been able to do. AT&T did not, unfortunately, promise repairs which would allow us to keep the customers, or provide better service or lower prices. But they did prevent the Bonny Doon folks from losing internet access altogether. AT&T had been refusing to sell DSL service to people (or to Cruzio) in those areas for years. But now they made an exception. They offered to take on a dozen former Cruzio customers — the folks who’d appeared on the radio. along with their neighbors.

But Cruzio knew of several households in other parts of the county who were in the same boat. We insisted they get the same treatment as those who’d spoken up. In the end, despite protests from AT&T, everyone who we knew was left out in the cold was transferred to AT&T service.

We Reach a Compromise

So the story has an ending that’s not exactly happy, but not a disaster, thanks to the efforts of the good folks in Bonny Doon… and to Anna Eshoo, along with Jimmy Panetta, Mark Stone and Ryan Coonerty, who sent a joint formal request to AT&T. Special mention to the staffs: Patty Kim and Asad Ramzanali from Eshoo’s office, Mark Denning from Panetta’s office, and Maureen McCarty who works for Mark Stone — we know staff members often do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work and we want to call out their contributions. They answered our calls, looked for solutions, and helped the elected officials with all the details.

The moral of the story: ignoring telecommunications regulation is perilous. The change in the last few decades away from a public utility model, with universal service and regulated price requirements, has resulted in a free-market free-for-all. Subsidies and grants meant to equalize access are often manipulated by the largest telecom providers to pay for existing, inadequate infrastructure. Rural and low-income areas are starved. Inequality increases.

And We Shouldn’t Drop the Ball — It Could Make a Huge Difference in our County

The new subsidies promised in federal infrastructure bills are still on the drawing board. We hope that Congress does a better job of making long-term improvements to needy areas this time around.

And we’ve had some victories at the state level, thought details are still pending.

Ernesto Falcon from the Electronic Freedom Foundation writes:

“If you live in California, now is the time to talk to your mayor and city council about your future broadband needs. Now is the time to talk to your local small businesses about the future the state has enabled if they need to improve their broadband connectivity. Now is the time to talk to your school district about what they can do to improve community infrastructure for local students. Maybe you yourself have the will and desire to build your own local broadband network through this law.”

Don’t continue the mistake of using government grants to be determined by current assumptions. We saw in the pandemic that current infrastructure isn’t adequate to the work-from-home school-from-home world that’s going to persist into the next decade. We have to build for a future that makes it possible for everyone to share in that new paradigm.

And please know that every time you tell Cruzio you want better internet access, we are logging your query. We are sharing areas of the county that need better infrastructure with public works departments and public advocacy groups. Stay involved and help us get better, more equitable access to Santa Cruz County the Central Coast. Anna Eshoo and the Bonny Doon activists let us know we can really have an effect.

It’s LONDON Nelson Center Now

London Nelson properly referenced in Parks & Rec Guide

Good work by Santa Cruz Parks & Rec, who changed the name to London throughout their Fall 2021 guide

Have you ever glanced at the backstory of what, until this year, was called Louden Nelson Center? If so, you know the man for whom the center was named — or rather, misnamed — in 1979 was London, not Louden, Nelson.After many decades, the Santa Cruz City Council finally voted to correct the error.

Why did the misspelling persist for so long? The man and the mistake are threaded through our local history.

Who Was London Nelson?

An early hero of the City of Santa Cruz, London Nelson is memorialized by the eponymous building and several plaques around town, hailed as friend to education. He was a slave included in an expedition from Tennessee to Northern California in search of gold in 1850 — when California was filled with fortune-seekers, many of whom kept their slaves despite the establishment of California that year as a free state.

Nelson’s group found gold, and London Nelson used his share to buy his freedom in 1854.

Ill health — and perhaps good sense — kept him from returning to Tennessee. Instead, now in his 50s, he moved from the Sacramento area to Santa Cruz — another sensible choice — and lived here for the rest of his life. Nelson never married here (we know nothing of his previous life in Tennessee). He was popular with his neighbors, selling vegetables and repairing shoes from his garden plot by the San Lorenzo River, behind the current post office. It’s said that he enjoyed watching local children trek past his house to their school up on Mission Hill. Uneducated himself, he valued the school, and when the it closed for lack of funds he was determined to help.

Nelson had no nearby heirs. When he died in 1860, he bequeathed his property to the school district, signing his will with an X.  Eventually his small farm was sold, the proceeds going to the construction of a beautiful new schoolhouse on Mission Hill (long gone now). His was one of the first graves in Evergreen Cemetery, and for many years schoolchildren made an annual pilgrimage to tend the grave.

Abolitionists or Racists? Both.

What happened in the decades and centuries following London Nelson’s death is a picture of a conflicted society. Nelson had been one of only two Black residents of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz was a stronghold of abolitionism before and during the Civil War, according to historian Geoffrey Dunn, and didn’t hesitate to honor a Black man. He was beloved while he lived and celebrated after his death. At the same time, he was the subject of sometime virulently racist news articles and his name was misspelled, his legacy muddled.

Georffrey Dunn has also written a more recent description of London Nelson and the effort to correct his name in The Good TImes.

What’s in a name?

Spelling a name properly is a sign of respect, so the correction is important.

Cruzio has a long history with the Center. We have donated internet to the building for nearly 30 years and have worked closely with the Senior Center housed there.  We signed the petition demanding the name change and we’re happy to see recognition returned to a good-hearted man who helped our community long ago. Many thanks to Brittnii Potter who started the petition and to the City Council for finally making the correction. And do read the Geoffrey Dunn article from 2016 for more details! It’s an article abut Jeneteenth but the second half goes into London Nelson.

Just When We Thought We Were Out of the Woods

 

Casual cat in car

Note from Cruzio’s CEO

Recap: on March 17th, 2020, Cruzio sent employees home and closed our coworking doors to all but essential workers. Those among us who were pessimistic spoke darkly of months of closure. Even the most negative didn’t foresee over a year of distancing, masks, and lost shops and restaurants.

Our Network Has Been Busier

Internet is an essential business, so Cruzio stayed mostly open while taking many safety measures. Our onsite technicians followed a strict set of protocols when working at people’s homes and offices. We expanded our Equal Access Santa Cruz (EASC) program to get internet to hard-to-reach places around the Central Coast, with added urgency as we saw schoolkids having trouble participating in their suddenly online classes. We were able to extend internet to low income housing and migrant farm camps and, with our community’s help, we’ve made a difference to many families — and more each month.

Our Building Has Been Quieter

Cruzioworks, our coworking space, protected members and staff by keeping occupancy to a minimum, putting strong HEPA filters on our air conditioning units, and sanitizing obsessively. We put tables and chairs outside so folks could meet in the fresh air  — an amenity so pleasant we’ll keep it in the future. Our onsite cafe closed — for a few weeks, then a month, then indefinitely. We’re still waiting for it to open, it’s the best little cafe in town. Our busy meeting rooms were limited to just a few occupants at a time.

Our neighbors in the building, the cheerful folks from Ecology Action, went home to work as well. The building has felt kind of empty. Not completely shut down but quieter and darker.

Last August/September, as fires raced down the Santa Cruz Mountains, several Cruzio employees were forced from their homes. We put a few up in the office. Colleagues lent air mattresses and they camped out, waiting for days for the signal to go back home. A long-time coworker’s house burned to the ground. The air itself choked us. Those days were shocking and sad.

Like so many people and businesses, as the pandemic months stretched on our daily lives changed radically.

Our Community’s Recovering, But in a Sputtering Way

And now we’re out of those worst times (really, the fire was the worst, right?) but we’re in a a sort of limbo.

Last month, a change back to normal seemed hopeful. Mask ordinances lifted. We scrubbed off the social distancing stickers on our floor and stopped locking our front door during business hours. We started planning a marketing campaign: “Reboot.” The idea, and what we talk about every day: how can we help to revive the Santa Cruz County economy with faster internet, price breaks, and expanded service? We’d like to see the shopping streets busy and lively again. We want to help.

But as the Delta variant pushes up the number infected, it’s clear we still need to be careful. Shops and theaters need to keep things slowed down a bit.

Internet work’s not slowing, of course. In fact quite the opposite. We’re hard at work getting things to go faster. It’s an inverse proportion: the more people can’t go out, the more internet they need. Closed theaters means more Netflix. Working from home means more Zoom. So we’re busy.

In the next few months I hope I’ll be able to send the “reboot” message we were planning for this month. Fingers crossed. Stay well!

Our Local Employees are Creating Equal Access

Cruzio was founded by people from Santa Cruz, and our staff is hired and trained right here, too. That makes Equal Access Santa Cruz a project of neighbors helping neighbors.

We’ve been building where the need is great

Our team just spent several weeks setting up connections for migrant labor housing communities east of Watsonville. Hundreds of children live there, and need internet for school. There’d been no internet at all prior to our arrival, so it was quite a job. Fortunately Cruzio’s fixed wireless technology — when conditions are right — can connect remote locations quickly and economically.

Residents pay just $15/mo, or even pay no fees at all, depending on their situation — thanks to generous donations, all from local sources. (You can help with the next project, see how.)

The homes were within sight of one of our Watsonville points of presence, and luckily had no large groups of trees, tall buildings, or mountain ridges in the way. (We generally love trees and mountains, but they can be trouble when we’re building our network.)

We wanted to have everything set so kids could get online right away. They’d already missed enough school.

This housing is occupied only from spring to fall, and families were gone for the winter. We wanted to have everything set for their return so kids could get online as soon as famillies returned. They’d already missed enough school.

We started work in early January. Families were due back by April 1st. So we had a short time frame to complete all the connections and wire up every one of 143 buildings in Buena Vista and its neighboring camp, Tierra Alta. From day one, it was go-go-go. Our infrastructure and system administration teams laid out the network plans — with networks, that means keeping track of hundreds of numbers and paths, both physical and logical. Then Adia Schamber and her Field Operations crew took over. 

Construction started January 18th. Children would connect to their Zoom classes as soon as they moved in — if we finished in time. The schedule was tight.

And then it rained. 

Remember the epic downpour in January?

We needed to hurry, so this rainstorm was a bummer…

Tony Guizar Orozco, who led construction at the camps, reported:

“A big challenge we faced while working on this project was getting all the physical roof and cable work done while it was pouring rain outside. We can’t do any roof work while it is raining, so when it began to come down, we had to halt the work on the roof and focus our attention on other work that we can do on the ground. Even in full rain gear, It is quite difficult to run exterior cable while it is raining, and especially difficult to terminate it.

Cam Kennedy, a co-worker, came up with the solution to use a rain canopy to shelter us from the rain while we worked. This allowed us to continue the cable work on the ground while waiting for an opportunity for the rain to stop and finish the roof work — a simple solution that allowed us to continue being efficient in less than ideal conditions. “

So we didn’t lose even one day of work to the rainstorm.

Rainbow over Buena Vista

…but when the rain ended we had a rainbow

Rain was just one of the hurdles

Then there were windy days when getting on a roof didn’t seem like a good idea. And the complicated ballet of COVID: to keep chances of infection low, crews aren’t allowed to combine or trade personnel, so one person’s absence can ripple into a day’s lost work for several more people. It also leads to a litany of precautions and procedures causing multiple miniscule delays: “My mask broke, can you bring an extra?” “I left the hand sanitizer in the truck, wait while I go get it.” All that may seem quaint someday, but it’s been a very real part of our work this year.

Our county badly needs rain, but the lack of rain — aside from the one downpour — did help us finish our labor camp installation in record time. We were able to work almost every day. It also helped that the Buena Vista housing is empty for the winter, so our staff was able to move quickly without bothering people. Managers expected to finish about four houses a day; we ended up finishing 10 a day, and on one memorable afternoon, Tony messaged that he and the team had finished fifteen.

But there was one last holdup…

 

Frost with package and Gigacenter at Buena VIsta

Chris Frost brings hardware, but there weren’t enough brackets to keep routers off the floor

In the last half of March, as we were congratulating our team for their neat, efficient work and the fast internet our tests exhibited, it was time to do the last task. The wifi routers.

We like to mount our routers up high on a wall, securely fastened in place away from spills, toddlers, and pets — who can all be death to electronics, as we all know. Adia, our Field Operations Manager, had ordered the brackets with plenty of time — throughout the project she’d been careful to have equipment ready when it was needed.

But right at the end of the project, as we prepared for residents to return on April 1st with their kids, pets, and spills, our wall mounting hardware was delayed by the manufacturer. 

On March 15th we were told the parts wouldn’t arrive until April 5th. That meant residents would find their routers on the floor when they moved in. Not acceptable! Adia called. Emailed. Pleaded. Got stern. The mounting hardware isn’t expensive, it’s not glamorous. It just didn’t, at that moment, exist. We tried to come up with alternative plans. But there was nothing as quick or as neat to install. So Adia kept after the manufacturer.

After weeks of pushing, at the last minute the manufacturer found some supply and shipped it to Cruzio. Tony and the crew rushed down to Buena Vista and buttoned everything up. And there it is today,  about 140 houses nicely kitted out with top-of-the-line equipment.

Luis, Tony, Ignacio, and Thom

Our fine team: Luis, Tony, Ignacio, and Thom

It takes a team to wire a village

With all our experience and training in the past several years, our team works well together. Chris Frost and James Hackett are overseeing the whole program, working with community members to identify and prioritize where we can do the most good. Alison Lowenthal and Mark Hanford architected the network, and Adia planned every installation down to the last detail. Her team — Tony, Ignacio Espindola-Hernandez, Luis Ruelas, and Thom Gilbert— spent weeks wiring every residence in the camp. The farmworkers are returning household by household, and they have high speed, reliable internet for the first time ever.

This isn’t your Grandpa’s internet — it’s fast!

Our network is a permanent installation, so it will outlast the COVID crisis and provide internet service for families for many years to come. And like our other fixed wireless services, we can upgrade gear when technology evolves.

Folks in the farm labor housing — like all our residential customers — don’t have to sign long contracts, so they’ll get the low-cost, high speed connections for just the months they need it. They’ll have fast speeds for uploads as well as downloads, great for Zoom calls and sending videos to friends, families, Instagram, whatever. We don’t collect and sell their data — or anyone’s — to marketing companies and we are net neutral so their viewing choices won’t be throttled. And our customer service is friendly, local, and bilingual. 

There’s so much more to do

No sooner had residents started moving in to Buena Vista than we started getting messages like these: “My friend that lives in buena vista has great internet and lives in the middle of nowhere like me, can I get it too?”

But reaching such remote locations often requires expensive, all-new infrastructure. It’s going to be a challenge to continue finding funding for communities that are low-income, rural, or both. Cruzio continues to look for every way we can to expand, whether by accepting donations to subsidize low-income families or by working with local residents who have tall houses who can serve others in their neighborhood. 

This work is not easy but it is rewarding. We’re already planning our next projects. Be a part of Equal Access Santa Cruz! Here’s how to donate. Everything helps!

Photo credits: Cam Kennedy, Alana Matthews

Cats on Computers

Many Cruzio staff members have been working from home for over a year now.

Cruzio’s  logo is a kitty, at a computer of course. And it’s based on our real life experience. During the pandemic, our cats often join us at work. So helpful!

 

Cam found that his cat, Fang, almost matched our logo.

Cam's cat does the Cruzio KItty

 

 

Or, another approach:

Kitty asleep on keyboard

 

Other cats— this is Molly — simply fill in where needed. Sorry, James. Seat taken.

cat on office chair

 

When it’s meal time, the cat gets a little closer.
Hello Iasha. Remember a little thing called feed me now?

Nala over the monitor

 

And drawers are not just for pencils. This is Fulton, who is “always sleeping on the job” according to his person, Chris Frost. Thoughtful to devote the whole desk drawer to comfortable cat naps!

Sleeping on the job

 

Checking email in bed? So is Georgie, Carly’s foster kitten

kitten with iphone

 

And we’re going to sneak a pup in here. Ziggy’s watching his shows.

Ziggy with an ipad

 

Sometimes a kitty’s just got to take a bath, gracefully but firmly, right on the keyboard

cat on keyboard

 

Or drift off to sleep, longing for the “return” of her person, and perhaps a nice dinner to boot

Nala presses Return