A Letter from Cruzio’s CEO

dog in fire meme

How are things in Santa Cruz? Thanks for asking.

The ongoing COVID health crisis was augmented two weeks ago by extremely hot weather that kicked off sudden county-wide blackouts from the power company.

While we were coping with the unusual heat, and worrying about whether more blackouts would come, Santa Cruz County had a pre-dawn lightning storm of terrific force on August 16th. Hundreds of lightning strikes dotted our county, from over the bay to our inland forested mountains. It was beautiful and scary.

We were, it turned out, right to be scared because the lightning set off a number of fires deep in wooded areas. The fires quickly spread in the hot, dry weather and 77,000 people were evacuated as tens of thousands of square acres burned out of control over the next couple of days.

The lightning storms hadn’t just hit Santa Cruz County. The rest of California suffered, too. Fires were started up and down the state — over 600 wildfires in all. It was impossible to address so many fires at once. The state’s resources were stretched thin. As the fires spread, residents were forced to leave their homes.

Evacuees included several Cruzio staffers, and hundreds of our customers. And it appears that some members of the Cruzio community lost their homes.

Those of us who remained in the unevacuated parts of Santa Cruz breathed air full of ash particles, and our homes smelled like smoke. Friends and family from the mountains are still sleeping on our couches, and we have our go-bags ready in case the wind takes a bad turn and we all have to — as the official notices put it — “get out.”

Through all this, we’ve still had to maintain social-distancing, mask-wearing, and generally care due to the pandemic.

So that’s how this month is going.

At Cruzio, we’re constantly reminded, during difficult times, how vital internet service is. Times of crisis raise the need. We had to anticipate damage from the fire and figure out how to prevent damage to our infrastructure. We knew people needed to pore over fire maps and get notices via email.

This means that all Cruzio staff were on alert this week, some losing days of sleep as we monitored and reacted to searing heat, power outages, and fire. Our staff lives here — as do our customers — and we’re fiercely dedicated to successful and safe outcomes for our community. We may suffer glitches and partial outages when the situation becomes overwhelming, but we are not complacent. We fight tooth and nail to keep our services running.

We don’t have to look far for inspiration. The firefighters battling this new and impossible complex of blazes are our heroes and we’re doing whatever we can to help them, as well as people who’ve gone to local shelters, and all those working in the systems which have to kick into place at times like these. Cruzio’s backbone connections are supporting the Santa Cruz Civic and Watsonville Fairgrounds evacuation sites. We’ve provided cameras for fire watch sites. We’ve reached out to government offices all over the county: what can Cruzio do to help?

Meanwhile we’re supporting our staff as best we can. We won’t put them in perilous situations. We try to help those who’ve been evacuated from their homes. Cruzio is focused on keeping internet running, which is a big job, while understanding that we, too, are humans who need a place to sleep.

As the days tick by, Cruzio is ready to help. A team like ours is part of a strong, resilient community, and we are working with organizations around the county to maintain communication services and help people find answers and find each other.  We put our staff’s names at the bottom of every newsletter — we’re proud of their work, especially now, especially this month.

Stay safe, Santa Cruz. Stay strong, it’s up to us to get our neighbors through this tough time.

Under Smoky Skies

Cruzio’s team roams Santa Cruz County, putting up and maintaining communications infrastructure. We’re often in high places: on rooftops or mountain peaks, and we had great views of the thing that’s been hovering above us for the last several days: the smoke-filled sky.

Cruzio has a lot of talented photographers on staff, and they posted photos of what they were seeing.

What Started the Fires

A lightning storm before dawn on Sunday, August 16th. Santa Cruz almost never gets lightning, but that night was wild. The storm was accompanied by little or no rain.

From a weather app, Sunday, August 16th, 4:26 am.

From a weather app, Sunday, August 16th, 4:26 am.

From Above

From high up where some of Cruzio’s facilities are located, we can see big changes occurring when the wind shifts and fire kicks up. First a trail of smoke rises, then the hills are laid over with creeping grey, and then, sometimes, the wind changes and skies are blue again.

Monday mountaintop:

View from Loma Prieta, Monday August 17th, 2020.

View from Loma Prieta, Monday August 17th, 2020. Photo by John Beardwood.

 

Wednesday mountaintop:

View from Loma Prieta Mountain, Wednesday August 19, 2020.

View from Loma Prieta, Monday August 17th, 2020. Photo by John Beardwood.

View from Loma Prieta Mountain, Weds August 19th

View from Loma Prieta Mountain, Weds August 19th. Photo by Cameron Kennedy.

 

View from Loma Prieta Mountain, Weds August 19th

View from Loma Prieta Mountain, Weds August 19th. Photo by Cameron Kennedy.

Friday mountaintop:

Looking towards Gilroy Friday, August 19th, 2020

Looking towards Gilroy Friday, August 19th, 2020. Alison Lowenthal.

Looking towards Gilroy Friday, August 19th, 2020

Looking towards Gilroy Friday, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Alison Lowenthal.

Note: the skies were blue on Friday, but that’s because the wind was favorable to that particular mountaintop that morning. Conditions are still shifting, and blue skies often give way to overhead smoke.

 

Around Santa Cruz County

When Cruzio staff are driving around town, it’s been almost eerie. As Field Operations staffer Sonya says “I said it before and I’ll say it again, It looks like an apocalypse movie.”

In the last week, the sky has gone from grey-yellow to various shades of orange, with occasional spots of blue peering through. The sun? A glowering red circle.

When the sky was orange

 

West Side Santa Cruz Weds, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Sonya Campbell.

West Side Santa Cruz Weds, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Sonya Campbell.

 

On a roof. West Side Santa Cruz Weds, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Sonya Campbell.

On a roof. West Side Santa Cruz Weds, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Sonya Campbell.

Laurel Street, Santa Cruz, Wednesday, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Hans Morales.

Laurel Street, Santa Cruz, Wednesday, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Hans Morales.

East Side Santa Cruz, Wednesday, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Mark Hanford.

East Side Santa Cruz, Wednesday, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Mark Hanford.

 

Monterey Bay from West Cliff Drive, Weds, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Peggy Dolgenos.

Monterey Bay from West Cliff Drive, Weds, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Peggy Dolgenos.

 

"Mood," Wednesday, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Jason Smidt.

“Mood,” Wednesday, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Jason Smidt.

 

877 Cedar Street, Thursday, August 20th, 2020. Photo by Evan Powers.

877 Cedar Street, Thursday, August 20th, 2020. Photo by Evan Powers.

 

When the sky was grey

 

Rooftop, Santa Cruz, Thursday August 20th, 2020. Photo by Cameron Kennedy.

Rooftop, Santa Cruz, Thursday August 20th, 2020. Photo by Cameron Kennedy.

First photo, Capitola, Friday August 21st, 2020. Photo by Evan Powers.

First photo, Capitola, Friday August 21st, 2020. Photo by Evan Powers.

Five minutes later, much worse. Capitola, Friday August 21st, 2020. Photo by Evan Powers.

Five minutes later, much worse. Capitola, Friday August 21st, 2020. Photo by Evan Powers.

Air quality on Friday, August 21st, 2020. Photo by Jason Smidt.

Air quality on Friday, August 21st, 2020. Photo by Jason Smidt.

 

Our Trucks in Many Places

Our staff has traveled all around the county and up into the Bay Area when necessary to maintain and repair equipment. Cruzio staff have uploaded some photos of our heroic trucks looking out over a smoke- and fire-colored landscape.

Cruzio's truck on Loma Prieta, Weds, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Cameron Kennedy.

Cruzio’s truck on Loma Prieta, Weds, August 19th, 2020. Photo by Cameron Kennedy.

Cruzio truck on Bay Street, Thursday, August 20th, 2020. Photo by Sonya Campbell.

Cruzio truck on Bay Street, Thursday, August 20th, 2020. Photo by Sonya Campbell.

 

Why Communications Can Sometimes be Difficult

And here’s a picture from a security camera on a communications tower in Bonny Doon, as the tower was engulfed by fire and destroyed.

Cruzio Internet, Equal Access Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education

Cruzio Internet headquarters

we’re working, but not many of us are in our building

Equal Access Santa Cruz has a simple goal: to bridge the digital divide and bring true high-speed broadband to every family in the Santa Cruz community, regardless of income level. The project is spearheaded by Cruzio Internet, one of the country’s oldest independent ISPs and a trusted partner in the Santa Cruz community for over 30 years.

When the current health crisis hit our county, our education system was an immediate area of major concern. it was obvious that the need for high-quality broadband had never been higher, and that low-income families would be the hardest hit.

Working with the County Office of Education (COE) and the Pajaro Valley School District (PVUSD) Cruzio quickly developed a plan to expand coverage and provide free and subsidized high-speed internet to dozens of low-income families and students.

The program provides families with free internet service including state-of-the-art home wifi for three months and then a heavily-discounted rate thereafter.

“Our priority is to support all students and families with the resources and tools needed for distance learning—especially our most under-served students”, said Jason Borgen, Chief Technology Officer for COE. “Focusing on equity, and doing everything we can to remove the digital divide from Santa Cruz County, the COE, and Cruzio, working together, can truly make a difference here,” he continued.

Demand for the service was overwhelming and clearly there was an opportunity to expand the program and serve many more families. Working closely with COE and PVUSD, Cruzio developed a plan to utilize district-owned properties to distribute wireless internet to many, many more families, students, and teachers. Faced with an urgent situation, Cruzio has relied on our own resources and our excellent connections within our industry. A quick call to one of Cruzio’s trusted technology partners, Aviat Networks, led to a donation of several high-end backhaul radios for use in the project. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to help Cruzio and Santa Cruz broaden the ability to communicate, learn, and continue to advance in life, even in these difficult times”, said Pete Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Aviat Networks.

While we didn’t at first consider outside donations as a possibility, once it was suggested we realized that not just Cruzio management and staff, but also other members of the Santa Cruz County community and the greater technology community recognize the importance of educational opportunity — and equity — for low-income families in our county. This knowledge has inspired us to expand the Equal Access Santa Cruz program and seek out new projects and opportunities that serve these goals.

The Digital Divide is newly revealed and it is creating unequal educational opportunity. As children are barred from libraries, community centers, and even friends’ houses, they need internet in their own homes. EASC has already provided that service to over 50 families and we are poised to serve hundreds more. And we need to act fast to connect as many people as possible as the fall semester begins.

“Our mission has always been the same,” said Chris Frost, Director of Infrastructure & Technology at Cruzio, “to offer affordable, high-quality Internet access to every home, business, and family in Santa Cruz County. Thanks to the support and vision of the community, we’re a step closer to that goal today.”

COVID19 CRUZIOWORKS FAQ

Cruzio building

877 Cedar Street

When will Cruzioworks re-open?

We never really closed, however, we have strongly encouraged all non-essential workers to stay away from the space until the shelter in place order was lifted. We have been diligently working over the last few months to welcome back everybody else, and can’t wait to see all of your wonderful faces!

So what’s different?

We have been following state and local guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety, including limiting entrance points to direct the flow of traffic, no longer permitting food and drink consumption in the common space, and a new check-in system at the front desk that has been designed around sanitization. We also have a strict mask policy we are enforcing seriously. It may take a little time to get used to the changes, but they’re important to create a safe, and great environment at Cruzioworks.

What other steps are you taking?

You’ll see a lot of subtle changes to the coworking space we think you’ll appreciate:

  • Plexiglass shields for the entire front desk
  • Outdoor desk space for 9-5, 24/7, and Office Members to work in
    the fresh air, and also for a great space to eat and drink.

  • Arrows and floor markings indicating which way traffic should
    flow down a hallway or how far apart you should stand while waiting.

  • Automatic hand sanitizer stations for all meeting rooms and other
    shared areas.
  • Helpful signage encouraging safe behavior
  • A check-in station at the front desk where you can sanitize and
    check for symptoms.
  • Restrooms are now single-occupancy and there are lids on the
    toilets which should be put down after use.

We have reimagined our Atrium space to ensure every desk is spaced 8 to 9 feet apart. Please don’t move these desks! They are spaced to ensure the health and safety of our rad community.

We have reassessed how many people can safely sit in a meeting room together according to county guidelines. Please pay heed to the signage on the doors!

We’ve also put a freeze on new memberships and day passes. We want to ensure the health and happiness of our current members first before adding moving parts to this equation.

Tell me more about this check-in station and floor arrows.

All Cruzioworks members will be required to use the Google Symptom checker at https://landing.google.com/screener/covid19 and sign a clipboard once per day when they first arrive verifying they are symptom-free and haven’t been out of the country in the last two weeks.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are making all doors to the atrium space and workstations ‘exit only’ except for the front door of the lobby. This will help us to ensure everybody checks in and to make sure we can reduce the probability of somebody with symptoms entering the space. We want to stress that while this may be inconvenient, it is truly for the health and safety of everybody at Cruzioworks, the Santa Cruz Community, and beyond.

Can you get into specifics about meeting room capacity? How will this impact my twenty-person model train enthusiast meetings? You know I’m loco for locomotives!

*Sighs* I’m keenly aware of this, choo choo dude. For now, we won’t be having large gatherings, meetings, or events. We ask that you follow occupancy signage for our meeting rooms. The Ross Classroom can safely accommodate 6 people, Edison Meeting Room can hold 1, and Tesla Meeting Room maxes out at 2.

I should probably wear a mask, yeah? I heard you mention that earlier…

Of course, you should! Actually, it’s not in any way a choice. County guidelines require masks indoors, and the recent statewide order requires masks everywhere else. The only time you may remove your mask is if you are in a private office, suite, or meeting room by yourself with the door closed. Per county guidelines, once a guest enters the office you must don your mask. Whether you are working in the corner of the Atrium, or walking back to your meeting room, or even hanging out in your cool private Workstation, a mask is required at all times. Those who do not adhere to these rules will be asked to leave and repeat offenders will risk having their memberships revoked. Sorry, but this is serious folks. If you need a mask, please let us know. We have lovely masks available at the front desk.

I heard you mention food and drinks aren’t allowed in the space either. Can you let me know why??

Until further notice, please avoid eating and drinking in the atrium, including workstations. We have provided outdoor spaces to eat and drink. This is in accordance with our state and local mask policies so as to keep the space as safe as possible. Plus, it’s summer! Go out and get some sun and enjoy the incredible Santa Cruz weather!

Can I still have guests here?

We understand that to run your business, you sometimes need to have guests and clients in the space. All visitors need to check-in at the front desk, follow our entry procedures, and abide by all rules. As usual, you as members are responsible for the behavior of your guests. We’d also strongly encourage you to, whenever possible, meet outside or, better yet, online.

What else can I expect when I enter the building?

We mentioned the check-in station earlier. If you arrive before 9am in the morning, or after 6pm at night because you have a 24/7 membership, please use our check-in and sanitation station on the honor system so we don’t have to bug you later. If you are symptomatic you will be asked to leave and may return 14 days from the onset of symptoms or your encounter with a COVID-positive individual, or following a negative test. We will have digital thermometers on hand if you feel feverish and would like to verify this.

To protect the health of our employees, we request that you maintain at least six feet of distance from Cruzio staff and coworking members whenever possible. And wear your mask!

What should I do if I have a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19?

If you have symptoms or test positive with COVID-19 we ask that you notify us immediately so we can conduct contact-tracing and take further steps. We’d also require that you not return to the workspace for at least 14 days and be symptom and med-free for at least 72 hours, or until you’ve tested negative for COVID-19… What are those symptoms again?

People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Or at least two of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Back to more practical matters: where’s the printer?

You probably noticed that we moved the printer/copier/fax/scanner. You’ll find it in the very back of the Atrium near the Cruzio Data Center door and Cruzioworks lockers.

How does mail work?

We have fully resumed normal mail delivery. We are no longer on the “opt-in” system we used temporarily during our brief hiatus. If you receive mail at this address you can access your mailbox 24/7. It’s located near the front desk in the main lobby. Please follow arrows on the floor as that hallway is narrow.

How’s Fred doing and when will the Sentinel Cafe reopen?

Fred’s just fine and he’s looking to reopen the cafe, with new health precautions, by the end of July. Stay tuned for more information!

What about ventilation? I heard indoor air wasn’t so great…

Glad you asked. We are making sure to open as many windows as we have, turning on fans each day to ensure maximum air circulation, adjusting our thermostats and HVAC units to circulate a larger percentage of outside air, and will be propping doors open when possible. We are also keeping an eye on the science and resources available and will continue to provide whatever safety measures we can. I can’t stress this enough: safety first!

Cruzio Joins #StopHateforProfit

#StopHateforProfit

We all need to do our part in making the world a better place. And Cruzio’s part centers around the internet. That’s why we’re joining many other companies to halt all paid advertising on Facebook for the month of July, in a campaign tagged #StopHateforProfit.

Facebook has been allowing people to publish hate speech, inaccuracies, and doctored videos. They’re not unique in that, but the impact is greatest on Facebook and there’s been little effective response from the company. As an early internet provider, Cruzio feels responsible when things go wrong online. We can’t control the internet, but we can try to make it a healthier, more equitable place.

Cruzio urges all our users to be thoughtful when they publish online. We don’t think everyone who works for Facebook or posts on Facebook is culpable, and the platform has many benefits. By joining a boycott, we hope to move their corporate policies in the right direction.

Our Downtown Neighbor Helps Ducks Reach River Safely

Save the ducks! from r/santacruz

When Cruzio and Ecology Action renovated our downtown Santa Cruz building, we put in a lot of plants and trees. Maybe that’s why a family of ducks has used our sidewalk area as their nesting ground for the last several years.

Cruzio’s keenly observant director of Technology and Infrastructure, Chris Frost, has taken note of the ducks for some time, as have a few other employees. We’re always a bit concerned that the duck family has placed itself in the possible path of so many cars.

But so far, things seem to have gone okay. And they keep returning to their, and our, office building home.

This year, one of our excellent neighbors (and a Cruzioworks alum) was videoed helping the mama duck and her many ducklings make their journey down Pacific Avenue to the San Lorenzo River. This involved some busy street crossings, but our friend John, who is a good guy (a “bro” as he’s called in the video) safely shepherded the little family and by all accounts they made it once again. Phew!

Mama and Papa Mallard were also spotted early in the pandemic shutdown, flying through the empty parking garage on Cedar and Church, enjoying the solitude without people and cars. Was that a pre-duckling romantic interlude?

Just in Case: Cruzio Has Extra Backup Power

When the lights are out, Cruzio is on.

Sorry to bring this up amid the pandemic, but PG&E has been indicating that there may be power outages this summer, possibly similar to 2019.

To prepare for such outages, Cruzio invested in an enormous new generator in our downtown headquarters. It’s a backup to our existing backup generator, which is also enormous and powerful. And might be necessary — we want to be sure our network will continue to supply you with internet, even when a power outage lasts for days, as happened last year.

So this spring, while Cruzio was locking doors and sending employees to work from home, our system administrators welcomed the new generator. It’s hooked up, tested, and ready to go ahead of summer’s heat.

Now we wish power outages, which seemed so dire, were all we had to worry about.

Last year our heroic team (particularly Ali and Cam) kept nearly every customer running uninterrupted during the power shutdowns. We will do our best to keep it all going if there are shutdowns — major or minor — this year.

Be ready at home, too: we’ll keep our internet powered, but your home devices like computers and wifi won’t stay up unless you have an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) to plug your equipment into. Last year UPSs and generators were pretty scarce, and very high-priced, during the days-long outages. It’s probably a good idea to make sure you have the backup power you need before anything happens.

Watch Out: Lots of Phony (Phishing) Email During the Pandemic

internet security logo

It never fails: every crisis brings out the scammers.

What Cruzio, as an ISP,  particularly wants to warn you about is the email scammers, who send “phishing” email. They pretend to be your bank, your ISP, your neighbor. They pretend they’re collecting money for charity — which people are more inclined to give in troubled times. They prey on your most shameful secrets and your greediest dreams of undeserved wealth.

When there’s something on your mind, like the fact that you can’t leave your home and go about your normal life, you’re a little more susceptible. Older people, especially, may be home alone and less clued into the vast possibilities of digital deception.

So be on guard, and help your family and friends.

What We’re Seeing

Lately, Cruzio has seen some pretty convincing fakes supposedly coming from… us! The scammers scoop up a Cruzio graphic and pop it atop a serious-sounding message telling you to type your password and personal information into a website.

Don’t.

Don’t type it in unless you’re sure. If you’re not sure the message is from us (or your bank, or your insurance company — even more frequent targets), don’t download files or visit websites. Don’t answer if someone says they have evidence that you looked at a porn site. If they seem to know a password, change it on the real site, not by clicking a link in the email.

(By the way, personal information including passwords has been harvested in various hacking incidents affecting institutions and businesses like the Veteran’s Administration, Target, Equifax, etc. To see if your information is available to scammers on the internet, check haveibeenpwned.com.)

And if an email sounds dire, remember that the more urgent the email sounds, the more likely it’s a scam.

Be especially suspicious of any email that says you need to “verify” your account by typing in information the company should already have or which they shouldn’t need, like your social security number.

Cruzio Gets Phony Sites Down Quickly

For our part, Cruzio is on the lookout, Most phishing schemes are caught before they even get to customers’ mailboxes. Scams that do get through are escalated quickly and our specialized team takes action immediately to report and disable the link. Crooks love to operate on holidays and weekends, so our pager team — who’s on call 24/7 — has been extra busy foiling phishermen during the pandemic.

Because we act quickly to foil the phishing, even if you click on a link, the scammer’s site has almost always been disabled. The longer you wait, the better the chance the scheme’s been axed.

If we think a lot of people have received the phishing email, we put a message on our voice mail (831 459-6301).

Phony Websites Hide on Infected Computers

What websites harbor these devious plots? Generally the host sites themselves are not criminal ones. They’re innocent victims who’ve been fooled by a similar phishing scheme in the past. The scammers crowbar in and put some web pages deep into their otherwise legit website. Once informed, webmasters shut access to those pages down — very quickly.

So often you’ll see, say, a fake Wells Fargo page deep inside a suburban nail salon website. The small business doesn’t even know it’s there, and will remove it as soon as they’re alerted.

More Information

Because the internet is, unfortunately, rife with misinformation and scams, we’ve written a number of blogs over the years to help customers recognize and respond to spam. Some are linked below.

And the Federal Trade Commission maintains a blog where online privacy and security scams are listed.

How Many Cats in this Picture?

James, who is Cruzio’s Director of Operations and Business Development, apparently likes cats. He has three real ones and a number of artistic renderings.

When he sent a cute photo of his cat Molly to a company message board, we noticed more felines in the photo than just Molly. There are many cats in this photo. It took us a while to find them all!

How many cats do you see? After you’ve given it your best shot, check for the answer below.

a photo with lots of cats in it

How many cats are in the photo?

 

Drag your cursor over the white text below to highlight the answer:

We count eight!:

1/ Molly, the real cat
2/ Red cat figure behind her
3/ Creepy bronze cat peeping out from behind laptop
4/ Gold statue cat # 1 on shelf
5/ Gold statue cat # 2 on shelf
6/ Cruzio kitty on sticker on world’s finest electric pencil sharpener (it’s the sharpener against which other sharpeners are measured. It said so on the box.)
7/ Cruzio kitty on laptop screen on Slack
8/ Name on spine of film encyclopedia: Ephraim KATZ (ooooooh!)

Cruzio’s Independent Internet Expands in Scotts Valley

New coverage area in Scotts Valley

Cruzio Internet recently expanded our super-fast, affordable, independent network in Scotts Valley. Homes and offices in the orange-shaded area on the map above now have access to better internet than ever before.

And if you care about Net Neutrality or data privacy you’ll be even more pleased with Cruzio’s service. Check us out, and welcome to our network! Get started!