- We’ve created a high-speed fixed wireless network that can extend to remote areas, and we’ve worked with communities and government entities to create economically viable ways to deliver service. However, companies cannot survive on a small, widely dispersed customer base. Cruzio’s competitiveness in more urban areas allows us to survive.
- As Cruzio expands our fiber network, we‘ve developed an expertise in serving low income communities, including workforce housing and mobile home parks. Equal Access Santa Cruz is just such a project. We’ve identified underserved urban areas and proposed a remedy.
By Oliver Bielak
As a senior in college, I receive a fair number of questions from family and friends that never fail to stress me out at least a little bit regarding my post-grad plans. “What do you want to do with your major?” and “Any idea what kind of work you want to do after graduating?” are particularly common and anxiety-inducing inquiries that I still worry about from time to time. At the start of this school year, I was feeling pretty lost about what the answers to those questions were since I was still trying to work it out for myself. But now with just a couple weeks until I complete my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Cruz, I am feeling more excitement than anything else and am finally able to answer those once-daunting questions about my post-graduation plans.
I can confidently say that everything changed when I started my internship with Cruzio Internet in September of last year. As an economics major, a challenge I faced until recently involved considering the focus of economics in which I was most interested both in terms of studies and career path. After considering my options, academic interests, and frankly, Google searches of what one can do with an economics degree, I decided that I wanted to explore marketing, and following a brief search, I secured a marketing internship at Cruzio Internet.
Aside from my coursework from UC Santa Cruz, my experience and knowledge of the world of marketing was limited. Furthermore, I had never worked for a company in the technology sector, nor had I ever worked for a company of Cruzio’s size. Needless to say, this was going to be a very new experience to me, which was both exhilarating and slightly nerve-racking. Fortunately, due largely to a passionate yet welcoming staff and an energizing work environment I was able to adapt to my new position smoothly. In the end, I’ve found that working with Cruzio has not only been a pleasurable time but also a tremendously valuable learning experience.
Like many other people, I’ve always been a naturally curious person and working with Cruzio provided me with the opportunity to explore many of my curiosities. Even before I started studying economics, I had always been interested in the ways in which businesses choose to present themselves and their products to the public. I wondered how, say, Apple chose to offer a mini version of the iPad, how they chose to price that product, and what they did to sell as many units as possible. With Cruzio, I had the good fortune of being a part of the team that actually thinks these questions over and makes those kinds of judgment calls, which in and of itself has been immensely enriching. One of my first projects as the marketing intern was to research the internet service providers with which we compete to find out what services they offer, the details and terms of the services, and how much each service costs. This information is vital to us so that we can be aware of what we are going up against, while also helping us decide whether or not we should change our own price points or alter our products in order to remain as competitive as possible. When your main competition is massive corporations like Comcast and AT&T, this process is not an option but a necessity. As you can imagine, it was quite enjoyable to perform such an important task that also allowed me to get a better understanding as to how businesses present and price their products, which is something I had always been curious about. Learning about these concepts in my classes on campus was great, but getting that first-hand experience was much more gratifying.
A second major project I worked on was planning and coordinating our weekly Cruzio Coffee Hour. Since Cruzio is a coworking facility as well as an internet service provider, we try to make our office space as fun and appealing as possible to make sure all our coworking members are content and cheerful. As such, I took the responsibility of organizing Cruzio Coffee Hour, in which I would find a guest speaker from a local organization or business to talk about their experience in their field and engage in discussions with our coworking members, all while we enjoy coffee and snacks together. Over the past few months, we’ve hosted representatives from Bike Santa Cruz County, Idea Fab Labs, the Bird School Project among other organizations. While I’ve definitely had a great time hearing these amazing people talk about the things that they are passionate about, the biggest takeaway from this project has been engaging in a task designed to make people happy. Our Coffee Hours exists to give coworking members the chance to get away from their work for a little bit and stimulate their minds in ways that may not happen in their daily work lives. From an academic or marketing standpoint, this project is great for customer retention and satisfaction, but the aspect I’ve enjoyed most about it has been providing the people here with a chance to further enlighten themselves and to continue to educate themselves even when the academic, studious part of their lives may be well behind them.
Another great set of experiences from the internship is our weekly marketing meetings. During these meetings, we talk about advertising, brand graphics, social media metric, and more; everyone on the marketing team (including CEO and co-founder Peggy Dolgenos) has the chance to bounce ideas off one another, talk about current and future projects, and think of creative ways to make Cruzio as appealing as possible. In these times, I am able to become more aware of the various channels of marketing in which Cruzio is engaged while also having the opportunity to make my voice heard and present my own ideas to the rest of the team. Overall, these meetings provide me with precious insight as to how team members collectively brainstorm, refine ideas, and ultimately, take action. It has been awesome to get a better understanding of the inner workings of a business, particularly one with so many different departments and operations.
One more highlight of my time with Cruzio was helping to organize and execute our annual Open House Extravaganza, or OHE. This event is a First Friday party in which we open the doors of our facility to the public for a night of fun; we have food and drinks, trivia with prizes, local art, games, free gifts, and inform guests about Santa Cruz Fiber, Cruzio’s state-of-the-art fiber broadband network. While this party is a great time for all of our guests, it was genuinely fulfilling to plan something for so long and to see so many people have such a great night. I also loved seeing how excited guests were when I was able to talk with them about Santa Cruz Fiber or other amazing Cruzio projects. OHE is very much a way for Cruzio to give back to the community and getting to be a part of the planning and execution of the party was a truly rewarding experience.
With any internship, the least one can expect is that the work is educational in some way and provides them with real workplace experience. With Cruzio, I had the fortune of not only obtaining valuable experience in the field but also getting to do work for a company that is exciting and relevant. Cruzio is doing so many awe-inspiring things throughout Santa Cruz County, like installing fiber-optic cables to eventually serve the entire county with reliable, lightning-fast internet. It feels good to be a part of the team that is in the vanguard of pushing Santa Cruz’s technological capacity forward and know that I have gotten a lot out of this experience. At the end of the day, work is still work and there are definitely times when I’d rather stay home, get comfy, and watch some Netflix. But when I am here at Cruzio and am focused on a task, chatting with my co-workers, or just walking around the office, it actually feels beneficial to my life. I enjoy myself when I’m working and know that I am getting a lot out of my time here and that what I am doing is valuable. As my internship comes to an end, the only thing I regret is not being able to do more in the time that I have. On the bright side though, I know that I’ll be able to take the skills and experiences I have gained here and use them to my advantage as I graduate from college this June and enter the real world. While I’m still nervous about what is to come next, I am feeling more prepared than ever and welcome the challenge openly.
What the Internet Is Doing with Your Data, Part II
As we mentioned last month. information about all of us is being collected and resold constantly by some of the largest corporations in the world. Our preferences, likes, and interests are being logged and examined for statistical correlations.
This isn’t entirely new. In the past, some patterns were predictable, too. If you lived in Chicago, you probably shopped mostly at stores in Chicago. If you bought hamburger meat, you might go to the ketchup aisle next. But now we have much more sophisticated tracking.
(By the way, not all internet companies gather and sell your data. Cruzio does not.)
New Tools are More Powerful Than Ever
Powerful data-crunching computers and artificial intelligence (AI) make it possible to store and analyze a lot more data and to make a lot more connections over a broad swath of the population. Social media and phone apps supply these powerhouses with the data they need. (What data do they collect? See last month’s newsletter.)
Market research companies use something called Predictive Analytics. One firm explains:
“Predictive analytics is the use of data, statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data. The goal is to go beyond knowing what has happened to providing a best assessment of what will happen in the future.”
They go on:
“An analyst performs a regression analysis to spot strength of correlations between specific customer variables with the purchase of a particular product; they can then use the “regression coefficients” (i.e. the degree to which each variable affects the purchase behavior) and create a score for likelihood of future purchases.”
In other words, if we know what you did before, we can make a good guess at what you’ll do next.
Can Predictive Analysis be a Good Thing?
We’ve mentioned before that there’s a positive aspect to having your data analyzed and your behavior predicted. Companies can basically lay a smooth path before you, so that you are as comfortable in the vast online world as you are among friends.
But there are obvious drawbacks, too: giving people more and more of what they seem to like exaggerates the differences among us, putting us into silos of our own personalities. If you are elderly, you won’t see ads for baby food. Young people won’t get ads for arthritis. Politically, siloing has the effect of polarizing us as each person sees only what they already believe.
Some examples of predictive analytics are pretty impressive. For example, a Target customer was shown ads for products of interest to pregnant women before she knew she was pregnant. That’s amazing. The store was trying to be helpful, but that level of help might be unwanted, or even dangerous.
Some Funny Correlations
Other “insights” are bizarre. Scientific American captured a number of them. A few:
- Typing with proper capitalization indicates creditworthiness
- Women with large bra size spend more money
- Orange cars require less repair
- Vegetarians make their planes on time more often
- In general, 54 percent of people would rather have loud farts than stinky farts. But among those who are interested in calligraphy, 71 percent would rather have loud farts than stinky farts
Predictive analysis is often wrong. Even at Cruzio, we’ve experienced examples: One of our programmers has been mis-identified as a dentist and can’t escape the flood of ads for dental seminars. Another, who’s white, has been categorized as African-American. These make us chuckle; we seem to be hidden in plain sight, somehow winning the game.
But as data collection and analysis matures, it’s likely mistakes will diminish and more and more will be known about all of us. The small bargains that we accept every day — I’m alright letting my weather app know my location, I’m alright letting Facebook look at my email contact list — add up as data-mining companies purchase information from the vast number of apps, merge the data, package it and sell it. So our “identities” will follow us everywhere.
Cruzio was one of the first companies in the country to offer internet to private citizens. We used that early internet for a variety of things which would look ridiculously old-fashioned now, but back then were cutting edge. In 1993 Cruzio had only a few hundred subscribers — it was a pretty obscure hobby for a small group of (rather nerdy) people.
But that would soon change.
The internet wasn’t people-friendly until web browsers provided easier access. Mosaic, an early graphical browser invented at the University of Illinois, began to catch on in 1992. It was so popular that one of its student authors, Marc Andreesen, founded Netscape after he graduated. Netscape built on the Mosaic model, but was sold commercially, had private investment, and quickly outsped its predecessor. And many people local to Santa Cruz helped build it and use it.
Look how boring Mosaic’s content was in 1993. That was about to change:
Why did we all take to Netscape?
Removing the scientific notations and jargon from tools helped make the internet popular.
In fact it’s gotten easier and easier over the decades since. Remember having to type http://www in front of everything? WWW stood for world wide web. We typed it every time. But where else were you going with your web browser?
Cruzio loved the streamlining. It was the whole reason, really, for Cruzio’s existence. Founders Chris Neklason and Peggy Dolgenos were computer engineers at SCO, a local Unix software company. Cruzio was their side gig. Their vision was to make this powerful thing, the internet, accessible to regular people. And better tools like Netscape made the internet easier to provide.
As the better web browser got popular, more people were able to find web pages, so more web pages were created. That meant there was more for the browser to find, so the browser became more useful. It was an upward spiral.
When Netscape was released, Cruzio’s customer base started growing exponentially — doubling every few months. What had been a smallish community of local tech employees from HP or Borland, who wanted home email as well, grew to include many more people.
Of course, lots of kids pushed their parents to Cruzio’s doors. Some of the kids were under ten years old! And many went on to work in the tech industry. Probably their children, in turn, show them how to use phone apps today.
Santa Cruz was on it
Cruzio got the internet to people’s homes and offices. But a lot of people in Santa Cruz were working on the technology that was feeding our growth.
More local connections: SCO, where Cruzio’s founders worked, was the first company to include a graphical web browser in its operating system. Lloyd Tabb, a talented engineer/entrepreneur who’s started several businesses in Santa Cruz, was an early employees at Netscape. And Netscape tapped UCSC for talent: Michael Lopp was an early manager after graduating from UCSC. James Clark was a former UCSC teacher.
What happened to Netscape?
As Michael Lopp writes on his LinkedIn page, “Microsoft ate us.”
We built it. We can fix it.
Sometimes, when the state of the internet looks grim (spam, privacy issues, fake news) we look back at that giddy era, and remember how much Santa Cruz contributed to the rise of the internet. And we think, well, there’s still Santa Cruz. Maybe we’ll help solve the problems.
There’s still time to comment on an FCC decision that will likely leave a lot people stranded without good internet options.
Read more here. Or just go straight to the FCC comments area where thousands of opinions against this move have been logged — you can read what people are saying, and the internet would love it if you entered your own views, too. Use this easy form to contribute your own opinion. We can make a difference!
Here’s an example of what one Californian said:
We need competitive alternatives to the geographic monopolies of Telecom like Comcast and AT&T. Without alternative providers, consumers are stuck paying exorbitant prices for crucial telecommunications! Give small businesses a chance to compete and give consumers a chance to choose a better service!
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
Remember when Hillary Clinton’s campaign email was hacked? It wasn’t a brainiac code-cracking algorithm. It was simple human deception.
The hackers sent an email which led her campaign chair, John Podesta — after asking advice from his IT professional! — to enter his login and password into a phony website. That’s called a phishing scheme and it depends on sounding like an authority when you’re really a cheat.
Here’s that actual email below:
John Podesta isn’t stupid, and wasn’t without resources. There was a slight mixup when his IT advisor recommended he change his password directly on Google, but unfortunately Podesta, or someone on his staff, used the link in the email instead.
A whole lot of trouble could have been avoided if they’d been familiar with this rule of thumb: when there’s a password or other personal information involved, go to a company’s website directly rather than clicking on a link in email.
And another rule of thumb: the more urgent the email sounds, the more likely it’s a scam.
A version of that same email fooled Colin Powell and the Democratic National Committee. And in the years since, schemes have gotten more sophisticated.
Equal Access Santa Cruz
Working people in Santa Cruz are sometimes situated in islands where housing is more affordable but internet is not.
Our county in general is considered prosperous, but there is a lack of internet access in working class neighborhoods that’s known to many of us and indicated on recent availability maps from the CPUC. The map is a good start because it means that CASF funds are available from the State of California to help finance improvements to internet connectivity in these areas. Specifically, we are looking at several mobile home parks in the Aptos/Capitola area.
Cruzio proposes to apply for the CASF grants to serve their residents with low-cost, state-of-the-art speeds of fiber internet: gigabit-per-second internet for about $50 per month, lower for income-qualified households. That rivals the best internet offered in the USA.
The project would make use of the Sunesys fiber installed with state funds in 2014. It involves expanding Cruzio’s existing fiberoptic network into these mobile home parks with underground construction. The areas we’re proposing to connect are marked in red in the map above.
About Santa Cruz Fiber
Cruzio’s Santa Cruz Fiber networks are robust and long-lasting — fiber optic cables can be used to provide not only what’s considered high speed internet today but can be used with more advanced technologies to provide hundreds or even thousands of times as much bandwidth in the future.
Cruzio has already built a similar mobile home park network in downtown Santa Cruz. It’s a great success: El Rio is the best-connected mobile home park in the country, and our story has attracted nationwide attention. We think proceeding further with the same type of project into different parts of the county will kickstart further expansions into other unserved neighborhoods.
Who’s Really Underserved?
A map of other “underserved” areas is below. These maps are notoriously inaccurate, and one of our challenges is to find out what areas of the county are actually in most need of internet — and then to do our best to extend great internet to those areas. Check the map: is your neighborhood represented accurately?
Now that we are experienced fiber network builders, the only thing slowing us down is funding. So the possibility of a grant would go a long way to getting reliable, low cost gigabit internet to all of Santa Cruz County, which is always our goal.
Your Voice Counts
What really helped us get our previous projects going — whether all-fiber or fiber-backed — was enthusiasm from neighbors. We asked for “fiber champions” to come in and talk to us about their neighborhoods and they definitely contributed to our decisions. We know there are other parts of our city and county that want us to build — to provide competition, which lowers prices and improves service. We’re eager to get it done.
Your voices will help if we get to the next stage of the grant application. If you need better internet, please let us — and your elected officials — know where you are!
In honor of Cruzio’s 30th anniversary this year, we’ll be putting out some of our crazy old stuff.
Our obsession was Rogue. Everyone played it when they should have been working. The graphics were all keyboard characters, like letters of the alphabet or symbols like # and @.
Why were we playing with such rudimentary graphics? Because that’s all we had. That’s right, this was before people had access to graphical computers, especially at work where we were using something called “dumb terminals.” In the early 1980s most people didn’t even have a mouse on their computer! Rogue was keyboard-driven. You didn’t even need to use the arrow keys: H,J,K, and L moved your player around the maze.
We didn’t have real graphics till Steve Jobs and Apple came out with the first mass-marketed graphical computers in 1983 (the Lisa) and 1984 (the Macintosh. Remember the 1984 superbowl ad? It’s worth a look, even now).
But when we played with ASCII, the game was Rogue. The game was maddening and addictive. It put you on a treasure hunt and attacked your vulnerable little self-character with bats, snakes, kestrels (kestrels? yes, kestrels) and all manner of imaginary creatures. A bat looked like this: B. A snake looked like this: S. Treasure looked like this: $
And you, little you — you were an at sign, @, constantly running, dodging, picking up $ whenever you could.
Cruzio’s founders worked in a software company where we and fellow engineers often worked all night and all weekend. We took brain-vacations at our desks by playing rogue. Everyone in the office played it.
Rogue was hard, and after getting through tunnels and mazes and evading weird creatures you got attached to your simple virtual @ self. Yelps and cries were heard in the office when the end finally came to a game. Then, back to work.
Rogue was created by Michael C. Toy and Kenneth C.R.C. Arnold in 1983. By the way, the aptly named Toy is a Santa Cruz resident so it’s one of those great Santa Cruz contributions to the world of tech.
Want to play? You can play Rogue on a simulator here. Try it!
We all know that data harvesting practices are widespread, but we can’t know all the details. When businesses are collecting data, they’re not subject to requirements for transparency. In fact, quite the opposite — methods of gathering and selling user data are considered trade secrets and are closely guarded. Private companies often “get away” with gathering more data than the government can.
(By the way, not all internet companies gather and sell your data. Cruzio does not.)
Despite the secrecy, public attention has recently encouraged reporters to dig in to the details. There’s so much to talk about that we’re separating it into several newsletters.
Here’s What We’ve Found, Part 1:
What, exactly, are online companies gathering from us?
A little background, to start. Most apps on your computer, phone, or other device have two purposes: one is the obvious one, the weather app that displays the weather, the social app that lets you see what your friends are doing.
The second purpose every app serves is much less obvious: to gather information incidental to the primary purpose, and sell it. You give the weather app your location. You give the social network your age, gender, and much more.
You might think, that’s not so valuable. What does any one app know? But the data doesn’t stay with that single company.
After gathering information, companies sell their caches to central data brokerages so that data from many different apps is gathered together in one place to form an ever-more-complete picture of you: where you hang out, what you spend, who you know, what you think. Data gatherers even brag that they can tell what stores you enter — and where you go inside the store.
What Are They Vacuuming Up?
It all starts with the gathering of information. Gizmodo has an excellent summary of what apps, browsers, and web pages gather from the moment you click on them. They gather inconsequential bits of information that a browser uses to display your web page properly into what’s called a “fingerprint” — an identifier. Your name might not be gathered, but no one else on the internet, or very few people, are in the same part of town as you, with the same size and version computer, running the same version of a browser. You’re not known necessarily by name, but a name is easily attached when other information is added.
You Can See Tons of Data Collected by Google and Facebook
You can see a lot of the information that’s been gathered about you. Cruzio’s dauntless reporter Brian Bishop did a deep dive into the information cached in his blog post What Do Tech Companies Know About Me, Turns Out a Lot. The Guardian found even more.
The data gathered is often only tangentially related to what the app seems to be doing. Tech Crunch reports:
“A great example of that is Facebook’s Nearby Friends. The feature lets you share your position with your friends so — and here’s that shiny promise — you can more easily hang out with them. But do you know anyone who is actively using this feature? Yet millions of people started sharing their exact location with Facebook for a feature that’s now buried and mostly unused. Meanwhile Facebook is actively using your location to track your offline habits so it can make money targeting you with adverts.”
And did you know that Amazon keeps recordings of all your interactions with Alexa?
Can You Really Delete Information?
Many apps allow you to remove your information. But that often means they remove it from your sight, while keeping it in their data caches. And they may have already sold it to another company anyway. Even if data has been gathered or shared illicitly or illegally, the horse is out of the barn.
For example, Cambridge Analytica sold data in the 2016 election. Facebook had shared the data from tens of millions of users without their permission, but with the condition that it be deleted/returned afterward and used for limited purposes. But Cambridge Analytica never deleted the information. And they used it for their own, uncontracted, purposes, sold their findings to political campaigns, and there’s no way to walk that back — the company is gone but the personal profiles have been disseminated . Who else has data that’s left the barn?
And Then There’s the Data Collected by Hackers
You’ve certainly seen headlines about gigantic data thefts, where personal information is gathered by criminals who hack into the computers of large corporations, like Target, or banks, or even government bodies, like the Veterans Administration. We’ve written before about where your data goes after it’s been hacked. This information is less detailed than that gathered by apps and websites, but it’s much more devastatingly personal and can be used for dentity theft. It includes names, addresses, passwords, social security numbers, and more. You can check whether your information is out there by seeing if you have been “pwned.”
Do You Want to be Tracked?
Before we go further, let’s get down to a big question.
Gizmodo has published tools to help you block some of the tracking. But remember: most of the data is gathered by an app you’re using for a reason, and blocking data may hurt the app’s performance. Do you want an online vendor to forget your shopping cart contents next time you go to the site? Do you want your weather app to lose track of locations you check frequently?
You might want to be selective about what tracking you prevent. Many of us go to a “stop tracking me” form and hesitate, mouse hovering over the choice. Do we want to lose the functionality that goes with the data? In a way it’s not really giving us a reasonable choice: it’s either everything or nothing
And we often hear, “I don’t care. I have nothing to hide.” Interesting, isn’t it, that people are more willing to let a corporation have access to their movements and activities at levels they’d never let the government see.
At the least, we can know more about what is tracked and how it’s used.
One More Time: Here are all the links from this blog post
Facebook’s Nearby Friends