Author Archives: Peggy Dolgenos

Net Neutrality: Time for Action

FCC Chair Ajit Pai

There’s a chance to save Net Neutrality. Act now.

We know there’s a lot going on. But this is important. It affects the public’s ability to access and publish information.

What’s at Stake

Prospects for a neutral, open, and fair internet have taken a bad turn. In December 2017, the FCC changed its ruling and lifted the requirement for ISPs to be Net Neutral  — which means that ISPs can choose what to speed up or slow down on the internet.

How long do you usually wait for a website to load before you click away? The effect could be devastating for media competition and especially for smaller companies that can’t afford to pay.

Of course, the ISP’s customers have already paid for internet. We think ISPs should not be charging both the customer (you) and the vendor (Netflix, or YouTube, or little startup company X).

Cruzio’s view is, if you’re paying for a connection, you should get to watch whatever you choose.

Where We’re At

So back to the beginning of this blog. There’s a chance to save Net Neutrality if we really try.

The FCC’s decision was in December, but it takes a while for such things to be official (“entered into the Federal Register”). That just happened February 22nd.

Once recorded, the Senate can rescind the regulation if they vote to do so within 60 days.

50 senators have already indicated they’d vote to overturn the recent decision. We just need one more senator.

Our California senators are already on board. And California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra has joined 22 other attorneys general to sue the FCC and prevent the change. So in general California is already pro-Net Neutrality, though certainly they’d all appreciate a “thanks!”.

The most effective action: if you know someone in a state with Republican senators, contact your friend and get them to give their senators a nudge! Net Neutrality is very popular with the general public. Reminding senators of that has worked well in the past.

We need just one more senator.

By the way, the NRA awarded a rifle to Trump administration’s FCC Chair Ajit Pai for his work killing Net Neutrality. The award came just about a week after the Parkland shooting.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Email Changes Coming Soon — Get Ready!

mailbox for email

Cruzio will soon upgrade our email services. Heads up: Cruzio is raising the monthly price of our service to $5 per mailbox in order to make the change. For people who have previously had free email attached to another service, this can represent a noticeable jump in cost.

(Note: This doesn’t apply to custom domain name email service, just to our core address space ending in @cruzio.com, @baymoon.com, @rattlebrain.com, @calcentral.com, @scshop.com, @elgatito.com, @ebold.com, @skyhighway.com, @cruziolatino.com, and @icogitate.com.)

Here’s an explanation of what we’re doing and why. For tips on how to be prepared and keep costs low, check our FAQ. For a smooth change down the line, we recommend changing settings now — here’s the info you’ll need.

Our first goal is to clear out unused mailboxes before we move to a new platform. We know because of the long-time low cost, many people have addresses they don’t use. The first step if you’re in that boat is to remove unwanted mailboxes. Please contact us to get that done, and we’ll be happy to help with issues like recovering forgotten passwords, forwarding (which we’re providing free of charge), and saving old messages.

Once our mailbox count has stabilized (we expect there will be many fewer of them), Cruzio will shift to the newer interface. Watch this space for announcements of new features in the coming months.

Why the Change

The simple answer is that maintaining and supporting a non-ad-based email service is quite expensive.  Sending and receiving messages might seem simple but the fact of the matter is that maintaining a good email service 24/7/365 is a lot of work, and email is what our customers call or write us about most. Adding better spam protection and a better user interface, which we feel is necessary, adds to the cost and we’ll be charged for those improvements by a third party on a per-mailbox per-month basis.

Then there’s the fact that Cruzio does not sell our customer information, surround your emails with ads, or otherwise subsidize the service as do free email providers such as Yahoo! or Gmail. The bottom line is that those services are free because the companies providing them want as many users as possible in order to monetize their personal data.

Cruzio is different. We work hard to protect our members’ privacy. We strongly believe it makes a difference to have an alternative to big nationwide ISPs — we stand out by offering fast, reliable internet services while being good members of the community and meeting a high bar for service and integrity.

To everyone who doesn’t like the increase in mailbox prices, Cruzio doesn’t like it either. We held off as long as we could. The current open source software we put together — and held together for many years — just isn’t providing the kind of user experience our customers need. We have to provide a better solution, and we’re going to do just that. The new email will have better spam protection, bigger mailboxes, and a much better user experience. Unfortunately, that’s expensive and we absolutely refuse to offset expenses by selling users’ personal information and browsing data or cutting off phone support as other companies do.

Understanding that some of our customers value free service over privacy and customer care and will elect to move to a different service, perhaps a free service, we have given months of notice to make sure people have time to find and transition to a new provider.

But if you’re inclined to stay, we’ll work to keep your business, so try talking with us first!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, we’re always happy to help answer them. Our staff is on hand to assist in any way possible. We value you as customers and as neighbors.

And most of all, thank you for your continued support of local, Net Neutral internet.

Need more information? Check out our Email Upgrade FAQ.

Operation Cupcake

Cruzio Internet has recently embarked on our community’s most ambitious communication project in over half a century — ever since cable companies with monopoly franchise agreements installed coaxial copper cables. Who’d ever have expected cupcakes to be part of the process?

Cupcakes from Buttercup Cakes. How's that related to internet?

We’re building Santa Cruz Fiber. This project will bring unprecedented internet speeds at low prices to downtown Santa Cruz. As with any ambitious project, there have been a few hiccups.

Building Fiber is “Boring”

Cruzio chose a minimally invasive method of construction: underground directional boring.

This method requires only small, occasional openings in the street. A drill then bores a narrow tunnel underground for as much as thousands of feet before re-emerging to pull conduit and fiber optic cables through.

It’s very important to watch for existing underground infrastructure while drilling, and several methods are used: all utilities mark their assets with bright spray paint; small round potholes are dug near the markings for visual confirmation; and a monitor attached to the drill head itself sends video to the operators standing above.

But Occasionally There’s a Surprise

Drilling is done slowly and carefully, with the monitor constantly checked.

We’ve encountered the usual problems: pouring rain for a couple of days, forcing us to leave up our parking signs longer than expected. Some of the buildings we’d like to extend fiber to didn’t get us permission in a timely manner (there’s still time, downtowners, sign up now!). And most seriously, three weeks after the start of construction, at nearly closing time one day, our drill hit a water pipe that had an odd, unmarked bend.

Our construction engineers were watching carefully. They saw the problem right away, but the older pipes tear easily and damage was done. We immediately shut down our drilling, notified the Water Department, and set about making repairs. Kudos to the City of Santa Cruz and to MP Construction, our contractors, for their quick action. Everyone worked together and capped the damage, prevented much water from escaping, and got the street back in working order that night.

That’s right: that night. The crew stayed at work till the job was done at about 4 am.

We’re not happy with mistakes. But we’re happy with the way our team deals with them.

Now for the Internet-Cupcake Connection:

We’ve set out traffic cones and sawhorses, slowing things down and causing some disruption in the neighborhood. So Cruzio has arranged with our local provider of excellent cupcakes, Buttercup Cakes, to provide a free cupcake to every affected household.

We feel that in the long run, our world-class (and inexpensive) internet will make up for the temporary inconvenience. But for someone feeling a bit peeved today, a cupcake might just hit the (sweet) spot.

No matter where you live in Santa Cruz County, we’d love to serve you. Sign up for fiber or fiber-backed internet, go to SantaCruzFiber.com.

Net Neutrality: Where It Stands

protect access, protect innovation, protect net neutrality

There’s been bad news lately about the internet. As expected after last year’s election, the FCC has rescinded its Net Neutrality rules.

The arguments against Net Neutrality are, frankly, disingenuous. They range from the idea that companies won’t invest without guaranteed results (what about every other industry?) to assurances that consumers don’t really need protection and will barely notice any difference: “Nothing to see here, folks.”

Cruzio disagrees. We’re skeptical that those arguments are simply political cover for allowing the biggest ISPs to make a lot more money by making the internet less open and free. The tragedy of the commons.

There are plenty of places to read arguments for Net Neutrality, like these at Ars Technica and from the ACLU. And Cruzio has been sounding the alarm for some time. We’re happy to discuss it at length, from the point of view of an ISP — it’s often argued that ISPs are unilaterally in favor of dropping the rule. But that’s not true.

Cruzio tried very hard to preserve the Net Neutrality rule. We worked with the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF).  We joined other independent ISPs in a letter to the FCC defending it. Ajit Pai kept claiming that “ISPs” needed the rule removed. We’re an ISP. “Nope, not us, no,” we protested. Deaf ears.

But now that we’ve gotten outvoted at the FCC, what can we do next?

It isn’t over.

Next steps:

First: Congress can, by a simple majority vote, review and reverse a federal regulation if it acts within 60 days of the rule’s publication. This would be a simple fix. Chuck Schumer, the Minority Leader, has promised to bring this to the Senate floor. Net Neutrality polls extremely well. If Congress voted with popular opinion this could happen quickly. But lobbying money is a strong counter-incentive to public interest, and large ISPs and their parent companies are some of the top donors in Washington (check the charts below, from OpenSecrets.org).  Even supportive representatives will have a strong incentive to lose the fight. So this is the area where public support is important right now — we have to speak louder than money. Action steps are right here.

Second: States are looking at imposing their own regulations. A state like California, with its economic clout, can strongly influence the market. We see that in other industries. For example, California air quality regulations have caused car manufacturers to meet higher standards than what’s federally required. Perhaps the same could go for Net Neutrality. Or at least we’d enjoy it in our state. We support State Senator Scott Weiner’s bill for Net Neutrality in California.

Third: Lawsuits. There is good evidence that the FCC did not do its required due diligence in accepting public input: it appears that millions of “public comments” were entered by hackers, many of them from, of course, Russia. With such a muddled data set, how can the Commission say it has had a clear view on public opinion? The claim is also being made that the FCC did not make a fact-based study to back up its decision, which has merit but seems harder to prove.

Fourth: the most basic part of the discussion, for us, is that Cruzio is committed to Net Neutral practices and we’re not going to change that. To almost quote Arlo Guthrie, “You can get anything you want, at Cruzio’s restaurant ISP.”

By the way, we’ve had some questions from our customers about Net Neutrality.

Here are some of the questions, and our best answers right now:

Q: Can people avoid paying for content by using a VPN?

A: It doesn’t seem like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) would help. Corporate ISPs which charge more for data from “out of network” sources would surely just classify all VPN traffic as “outside of network.”

Q: What about upstream providers? Will they charge more?

A: This question recognizes that the internet is a network, and that data travels not just inside one ISP, but is handed off from one company to another. But there is a difference between the ISP who serves individual customers and “NSPs,” or network service providers. Right now, the “backbone” of the internet is still fairly competitive. ISPs like Cruzio can choose from a number of NSPs. We should keep an eye out for over-consolidation of the internet backbone, but this is less of an immediate issue so far as we can see. If Cruzio found that an upstream provider violated Net Neutrality, we’d stop sending traffic through that company.

Q: Are Cruzio’s upstream providers fighting for Net Neutrality?

A: Many of our fellow ISPs, including a company called Sonic from which we rent circuits, are active in the pro-Net Neutrality cause. But NSPs aren’t generally involved in the discussion — see above.

Net Neutrality Alert

internet net neutrality graphic

It’s time to take action.

On December 14th, the FCC will vote on rolling back Net Neutrality rules. The change would hand a huge amount of control over the internet to large corporations.

Before that happens — and in the hopes that it might not — let’s sign petitions, call senators, email the FCC. We won this fight last time because a lot of people raised their voices.

The following instructions are from social media. We’ve tested them at Cruzio and they’re simple to do. Please feel free to copy and paste the steps below!

John Oliver has made it easy to voice your concern re: net neutrality. Here are the steps:
1. Go to gofccyourself.com
(the shortcut John Oliver made to the hard-to-find FCC comment page)
2. Click on the 17-108 link (Restoring Internet Freedom)
3. Click on “+Express”
4. Be sure to hit “ENTER” after you put in your name & info so it registers.
5. In the comment section write, for example, “I strongly support net neutrality backed by Title 2 oversight of ISPs.”
6. Click to submit, done. – Make sure you hit submit at the end!

Click here for more links to pro-Net Neutrality action. It’s easy and fast to make your opinion known. And if you’re a Cruzio customer, thank you. By supporting a competitive independent ISP you’re supporting Net Neutrality, too.

By now, most people know what Net Neutrality means (if you don’t, here’s a brief video explanation).

Basically, losing the requirement for Net Neutrality puts the decision of what you can see on the internet into the hands of internet service providers, or ISPs. Cruzio’s an ISP, but we don’t think we should decide what you see — we are staunchly Net Neutral and will continue to be even if the rules are revoked. Large corporate ISPs feel differently (and, despite rules,  act differently) and have spent a lot of lobbying money fighting Net Neutrality for many years.

When former Verizon lawyer  Ajit Pai became FCC chair under the Trump administration, he immediately began the move to strip Net Neutrality rules. That’s the issue in the December 14th vote.

Up next, corporate ISPs are pushing to prevent states from setting their own Net Neutrality rules.

Don’t let the ever-increasing consolidation of corporate internet companies force a consolidation of media sources, too. Protect the opportunity for startups to flourish — as companies like Google, Reddit, Tinder, Wikipedia and so many others have done not so long ago. We’re still at the beginning of the internet. We have so much more to create.

Worried about Security? Time to Pick a New Password

password security

Maybe you’ve used the same password for a dozen years: your dog’s name, or a bunch of letters you put together at some point and just remember now. Hopefully your password of choice is not “password” or “123456”, two of the still-most-popular passwords in the USA.

But even with an unusual password, if it’s A) old and/or B) used for lots of different sites, it’s probably time for a change.

A lot of password-holding services—like Yahoo, or Target, or many more—have been hacked, and criminals know they can often succeed by trying the same login and password combinations on other sites: for example, they’ll try using your Yahoo login at every banking site, hoping to find your account.

Wondering if your information has been compromised? Haveibeenpwned.com looks to see if your password or other personally identifying information has been gathered in one of the many hacking incidents over the years. “Pwned,” by the way, is short for being “perfectly owned” —gamer lingo for someone completely getting the better of you.

When info is stolen, it goes out onto the so-called Dark Web for sale. Someone might want to buy your name, address and birthdate—and passwords, social security numbers and answers to security questions (like “what was your first car?”) are worth even more. Haveibeenpwned.com works by checking for your name or login on the Dark Web and telling you whether your information has been released.

If you see you’ve been compromised, think of the other places you may have used that same login and password, and change your passwords!

Or, just change your passwords anyway. It’s time, right?

More on how to choose a password (this is a fun idea) and how to remember passwords here.

Cruzio’s Stand on Privacy, Security, and Net Neutrality

 

privacy, security and net neutrality iconRecently, the US Congress repealed important internet privacy protections. The repeal allows internet providers to gather and sell personal data — like location and browsing histories — without the user’s permission.

People have been asking Cruzio if we sell personal data.

The answer: No. Cruzio and Santa Cruz Fiber do not use or share your data for any purpose other than carrying out the internet service we’re providing you. And we don’t sell your data at all. Never have, never will. It’s that simple.

Whether or not it’s illegal, Cruzio and Santa Cruz Fiber believe it’s unethical to collect and sell your personal data without your permission.

Cruzio’s owners and staff are all deeply committed to keeping your personal information private and secure at every level of our company.

If you are concerned about privacy on the Internet, we urge you to take action. Let your representatives know that it is a concern. Support the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU.

The next big issue on the internet front may be Net Neutrality.

Cruzio and Santa Cruz Fiber practice Net Neutrality — we can get pretty passionate about it, just like privacy. Keep your eye on this issue too. We’ll be sharing updates on these issues in our newsletter, blog and on social media.

(Note: let your elected representatives know what you think about internet rules! To find contact information for all your representatives, we recommend the Needful News Network. If you enter your full address, you’ll get a list of all elected officials who serve you. )

Privacy on the Internet: Cruzio’s Take

On March 23rd, the US Senate voted to revoke privacy provisions put in place by the Obama administration. On March 28th, the House passed the bill as well. Now it’s just waiting for President Trump’s signature, and he’s indicated he will sign it.

Before getting into an explanation of the effect this will have on our privacy, we should mention that Cruzio Internet and Santa Cruz Fiber are strongly opposed to this action. In our 28-year history we have scrupulously protected customer privacy and we always will. With other independent ISPs, we’ve signed on to a letter from the Electronic Freedom Foundation protesting the recent vote.

What’s this loss of privacy about?

The new rules will allow internet service providers (ISPs) — the companies who connect home and business computers to the internet — to collect a wide variety of data from customers and use or sell it.

For example, your ISP can see when and from where you connect to the internet, and what sites you visit. Collecting this data and selling it without your permission is an invasion of your privacy.

If companies don’t have to ask permission, they also do not have to make sure you know they’re scooping up your data, or specifics about what or when they’re collecting and to whom it’s being sold. So likely most consumers will not even be aware of what they are revealing.

Why would anyone want to remove privacy protections?

The claim from Congress was that removing the regulations will “increase competition and cut costs for internet providers.”

The competition they’re talking about isn’t helpful to consumers, only advertisers. Rather than adding entrants to the ISP market, removing this regulation just allows complicit ISPs to compete with social media companies like Facebook and Google for advertising dollars.  But since those sectors don’t much overlap, we can’t expect increased competition in either of them. Big companies, with big ad revenue, will get bigger.

That’s why the biggest ISPs, phone and cable behemoths who control nearly all the market, pushed hard — and paid a lot — for this legislation.

More competition among ISPs is much needed. Right now, the vast majority of people in America have access to only one or two internet providers — their local cable or phone company. Deregulation hasn’t created a competitive environment as promised, it just hardened monopolies. Allowing the sale of private information is just another hollow claim.

Since big ISPs don’t have to be competitive, they don’t have to avoid unpopular practices. People might like a choice of privacy or other options, but the choice for most people will be, basically, internet without privacy or no internet at all.

In Santa Cruz we do have a choice. Cruzio is a local ISP with a strong commitment to customer privacy and security, as well as net neutrality. Cruzio has not, does not and will not sell your data. This is true throughout our organization. And every household or business that uses our service helps us stay in the game, enabling us to continue our commitment to principles our customers care about.

Can we just wait, and then re-establish privacy rules later?

Unfortunately, the resolution rescinding privacy rules prevents the FCC from reinstating the same or similar measures in the future. It’s one of the Congressional Review Acts (CRAs) that the 2017 Congress has used to turn over regulations enacted by the Obama-era agencies. The FCC under President Obama was able to simply create a regulation protecting internet users. Next time, because it’s been rescinded by a CRA, protection will require a vote by Congress.

Is there a silver lining to this situation?

We hope so: that the public will be more aware of internet privacy, as well as net neutrality. Cruzio and Santa Cruz Fiber regularly report about this issue in our newsletter, blog, and social media, pointing out ways to get your voice heard. Stay tuned!

(Note: let your elected representatives know what you think about internet rules! To find contact information for all your representatives, we recommend the Needful News Network. Enter your full address to get a list of all of the elected officials who serve you.)

In Memoriam: Doug Ross

Our coworker and friend Doug Ross passed away last week. He was a member of the Cruzio community for many years, and being forced to speak of him in the past tense is hard.

Doug at his marine mammal rescue post

Doug at his marine mammal rescue post

Doug was a big man: strong, tall, enormously talented; generous, with a great big heart. He enriched what he touched and improved what he joined.

How to describe all that Doug did for us and for the world?

His art. We know his print-making best, but Doug could work in so many media. He once brought a beautiful Calder-esque wire horse sculpture to our workspace. He’d made it by twisting some wires together. Doug pivoted from commercial art to fine art several years ago, and we’re grateful for the freedom that gave him. His art is unique, memorable, and very recognizable.

dougs_whales

Doug at Cruzioworks

Doug at Cruzioworks

His participation. At our coworking “Bounce Hour” get-togethers, Doug explained how he approached art, shared his Toastmaster training,and even organized an evening of sketching for our community. He led a chapter of Toastmasters. He was a beloved longtime member and leader, well known to other coworkers for his warmth and willingness to help.

His care for marine mammals. How many of us look out at the big ocean, full of wild creatures, and think, “I can help with that.” But perhaps the animal world has the most to thank Doug for. He regularly saved stranded sea lions and whales caught in garbage and debris. From time to time he’d get a call at work and he’d rush out to the beach or the bay to help a distressed animal. Doug’s strength, smarts and skill came in handy for cold water rescue operations, and he was summoned for the most difficult jobs.

His mad-scientist passion for solving problems. Doug invented equipment that will improve the process of untangling whales from debris.

Chris Neklason, Cruzio’s CEO, said

“A Venn diagram is a chart of intersecting circles. Each circle could indicate a talent or an interest. A Venn diagram of Doug would be an infinitely petaled flower with a blazing core.”

Most of all, we’ll miss seeing Doug walk toward us, coffee cup in hand, wryly smiling, saying hello. Any community is only as great as its participants make it. We all depended on Doug for his leadership and we will miss him terribly. Much love to his family.

doug_with_dogs

Cruzio and the Loma Fire: Day One

An eagle watches the Loma Fire

An eagle watches the Loma Fire

September 26th in Santa Cruz was unseasonably hot. Fire weather.

At about 2:45 pm, one of our ham radio enthusiasts emailed us: “Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains… Just a quarter acre, someone’s trailer caught fire,” he told us.

In an hour the fire had spread to 200 acres. Local TV news streamed a live feed, which we tweeted: a helicopter circling Loma Prieta mountain, watching the fire race uphill.

Small planes from Cal Fire dumped loads of flame retardant on a mountain covered with dry, brittle trees and brush. At first, Cruzio staff watched like anyone else would watch, worrying about the people, pets and animals who might be affected. But it got more personal as the hours passed.

2:48 pm, from Cruzio's camera

2:48 pm, from Cruzio’s camera, we’re seeing nearby smoke

A telecommunications facility, used by many companies including Cruzio, sits on top of Loma Prieta. We serve some fiber-to-wireless customers from that site, and it’s an important backup to our fiber connections, protecting our network from outages. We’ve spent years acquiring and deploying expensive equipment there.

Starting at about 2:45 pm, we watched live TV footage of the fire approaching the bunker-like buildings and steel tower housing our equipment.

2:48 pm, from TV footage

2:48 pm, a TV helicopter’s view of Loma

Cruzio has security cameras up there — we mostly use them to monitor weather, so we can make sure snow and ice don’t interfere with equipment in winter. The cameras can be swiveled, zoomed and aimed remotely, so we can see all around. Often, one of our technicians will spot mountain lions or eagles close to the buildings and they’ll email out screen shots. We love the cameras.

By 3:30 pm, our security cameras were picking up nearby flames.

3:42 pm, from Cruzio's camera

3:42 pm, from Cruzio’s camera, the edge of the fire moving up the mountain

At Cruzio headquarters, we anxiously watched the live video. We hoped the fire would miss our facility. Winds were blowing away from the buildings — we could see embers blowing away from the camera. But the situation changed by the minute.

As we swiveled the camera, we saw fire in dozens of spots burning just down the hill.

If fire had engulfed the mountaintop facility, and burned the bunkers down, our equipment would have been destroyed. But the site is prepared for fire, with a wide dirt clearance, paved perimeter road and concrete buildings. And once we saw the fire moving south, we were relieved that the fire wouldn’t destroy our equipment. Now we worried about electricity.  Continue Reading: Night One