A photo of our completed backup link as the sun sets in Watsonville.
Over here at Cruzio, we’re familiar with challenges. When trouble strikes, in the internet infrastructure biz, it strikes hard. We’re always prepared for any eventuality, and we do our best to make sure all of our friends and customers don’t even realize a crisis is happening at all. Case in point: a major fiber cut in Watsonville yesterday afternoon.
Working with fiber can be incredibly rewarding, as it lets us get previously unimaginable internet speeds throughout the county. That said, fiber cable is made of glass, and glass can be broken with enough force. Yesterday, a construction crew’s backhoe used a lot of force to break the 288 separate strands of fiber that form our backbone into Watsonville while taking out a water main in the process. At around noon, we saw the effects of the fiber cut suddenly pop up on our network, and our infrastructure team sprang into action.
Within one hour, our infrastructure team had developed a plan to build a new 10 gigabit connection to bring the network back online. This isn’t a quick fix, by the way, infrastructure at this level would normally take weeks of planning and at least a few full days of work to build. Our team planned it out in less than an hour and was rolling out to get it built very shortly after that. All told, we were able to complete the initial build of our backup infrastructure in around 4 hours, and we were up and running in less than 6. That’s at least 3 full days of work for a normal infrastructure team, completed in less than 8 hours. Do they have superpowers? Perhaps.
By the time the fiber was restored at around midnight, many of the people in our field operations team had worked well over 12 hours that day to make sure our customers were affected as little as possible. Now, a day later, everything is restored, and all is normal again. In fact, better: we now have a permanent backup in place to avoid even small disruptions.
So maybe today we’re a bit sleepy. But we’re proud of the quick, efficient and responsive work we did in making sure as few people as humanly possible felt the wrath of The Great Watsonville Fiber Cut of 2020. Kudos to the team who’s capable of such extraordinary work: Frost, Ali, Mark, Colin, Cam, Jay, Spencer, Hans, and Luis.
On December 5th Cruzio was awarded a $2.45 Million broadband grant from the California Advanced Services Fund to build high-speed fiber optic internet connectivity to seven under-served mobile home parks in the Capitola area.
Why Santa Cruz County Needs Equal Access
When Cruzio started building our Santa Cruz Fiber network, Santa Cruz County was rated 446th of 501 California metropolitan areas for internet speeds. Too small to attract investment from big ISPs, and too populated for rural subsidy programs, our county wallowed in neglected infrastructure.
Until the early 2000s, Cruzio relied on leased AT&T lines. Those lines were built in an earlier, highly-regulated and subsidized era. With less regulation from the FCC, the big ISPs took advantage of their existing infrastructure and a lack of competition to save costs. Saving costs usually results in lower quality of service.
To our dismay, they started letting local wires age and fray. We realized we had to free ourselves from that aging network and we started building independent infrastructure. Now Cruzio has a considerable — and growing — network serving thousands of local residents. Wherever we build, we bring better options to the community.
We want to get that infrastructure where it’s needed most. So we’ve started an effort we call Equal Access Santa Cruz (EASC). And in early December, EASC won a substantial grant from the State of California.
We Know How Important Internet Is
For years, Cruzio Director James Hackett has said, “Internet is a utility that’s become as vital as gas, electricity, or even water.”
Something so vital to modern life needs to be available equally to all, no matter what their location or economic circumstances.
The just-announced grant takes a big step towards that goal. After a year of seemingly endless documentation (and many prior years accumulating expertise andexperience), on December 5th, 2019 James and fellow Director Chris Frost drove up to Sacramento to receive the grant award for Cruzio’s Equal Access Santa Cruz project. Hooray!
Cruzio brought fiber internet to El Rio mobile home park in 2018
Equal Access Santa Cruz
We’re honored to get the grant, and it’s for a great project. There are several communications “deserts” around Santa Cruz County which have sub-standard internet, as defined by the FCC. Many of these areas are in mobile home parks, where incomes are lower, on average, than the communities around them. They’ve been ignored by big ISPs — big corporations have a habit of ignoring consumers. Especially lower-income ones.
Cruzio identified seven such communities in mid-County that we can reach with the best internet anyone can build: fiber optic connections direct to each home. Residents of these parks have, till now, experienced some of the worst connectivity in Santa Cruz County. With this project, they can look forward to the best in the USA.
We weren’t the only ones who recognized the need for better internet in mid-county neighborhoods. Member of Congress Jimmy Panetta, State Assembly Member Mark Stone, County Supervisors Zach Friend and John Leopold, and many other elected and appointed officials helped move the project forward.
This is All About Infrastructure, and That Can Get Complex. Any Chance You’re Still Reading?
Building infrastructure is tough work. Construction is expensive, time-consuming, and rife with licenses and regulations. We don’t doubt it’s boring to read about — a lot of our job is literally boring holes and feeding cable through them.
But Cruzio builds fiber to last a lifetime. And we know our work will change lives and livelihoods well into the future. It’s tough work, but it’s work worth doing.
When we last left our determined independent ISP, Cruzio announced that it won a grant to serve low-income mobile home parks in mid-County Santa Cruz. But before the grant was won, there was the grant process.
We Really Fit the Bill
Cruzio’s Equal Access Santa Cruz (EASC) project is tailor-made for the purposes of the State of California’s California Advanced Services Fund (CASF): “to encourage deployment of high-quality advanced communication services to all Californians.”
All Californians. Not just the ones living in the big houses in the middle of town.
Cruzio’s project equalizes internet access across geographic areas and income levels, and puts much-needed new infrastructure into neighborhoods where substandard service currently exists. We’re a local company getting our community the internet it needs. We know how to do this; we’ve done it before.
And anyone in a position to know agreed. That was a start.
The Rocky Road We Travelled
Those of you who’ve applied for grants know it can be difficult and time-consuming — especially if you have to fight some of the largest corporations in the United States in the process. AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum anyone?
In an effort to boost internet quality in the US without pissing off well-funded interests, federal and state agencies came up with a system that’s fairly byzantine and mostly controlled by the companies which own most of the existing infrastructure — yup, those big companies mentioned above.
Using the bizarre argument that competition stifles investment, lobbyists for those large companies have set up guard rails to protect their market positions at the cost of consumers. If an ISP claims to provide six megabits per second downstream to even one home in an area, regardless of price, that area is considered “served” and no grants for improved service will be awarded.
There is no method in place to check the validity of service claims. So money tends to sit in the pot as competitive ISPs like Cruzio search for places that don’t reach even that dismal standard.
Big ISPs Jealously Guard Their Monopolies
When we found such areas in the middle of our own county, based on years of maps produced by the FCC, and applied for funding, suddenly a big ISP took an interest — not in building better infrastructure, but in quashing our grant request. Suddenly, Spectrum declared the area “served” and asked the CPUC to turn us down.
That challenge succeeded, and took about half the mobile homes out of our project. Those residences won’t get a boost from the grant. Cruzio will try to extend to them privately, but the cost of infrastructure is high. As a result of the challenge by Spectrum, the benefit of the grant is more limited than we first intended.
We pressed on, though. From February to November 2019, we went through regulatory and environmental hurdles. We proved our long-term sustainability (Cruzio celebrated 30 years as an internet company in 2019, for goodness’ sake) and financial health. Finally, on November 4th, we got a provisional okay on our remaining proposal.
But — play some minor chords in this scene — it was only a recommendation, not an award.
Hey, what’s the difference? Just the final stamp on the paperwork.
We waited for the commission to give us the final thumbs up. This was an unbearably tense time. The behemoth ISPs now had one more chance to challenge our request. Weeks went by. The deadline loomed. Things looked hopeful — looks like we made it? A lot of finger crossing and trying not to jinx it.
The Day Before the Deadline
Then suddenly, the day before the final decision, Spectrum/Charter put in a last-minute dispute. They wanted to remove even more from the project, so that we’d have just a skinny strip of modular homes to serve with an awesome, but expensive, new network. That would change the economic viability of the project. It would kill it.
We were crazy worried. We reached out to our elected officials. Jimmy Panetta’s office responded quickly, and took steps to defend the project. But there were many hazards. The former chair of the commission had retired. The new chair was an unknown to us and to many advocates. Would she be more susceptible to lobbying pressure? Nail-biting time.
Then, out of the blue, a knight in shining regulatory armor appeared. Steve Blum, of the aforementioned CCBC, has helped many municipalities plan and build network infrastructure. He submitted a firm rebuttal to the commissioners defending not only our grant but the program itself and its aim of increasing low-cost, high performance internet throughout the State of California. If you’d like to see community advocacy at work, read his letter here.
The CPUC recognized the merit of the argument. They approved the grant. The CPUC had done its job. Yay.
Now we need to complete ours. Winning the grant is only one step in a long chain. Funding is given as a reimbursement for finished work, not an up-front payment. So we have to finance and construct the network before we see a penny.
And although we have the support of the parks’ residents, we’ve discovered that many mobile-home parks have been “rolled up” by private equity firms in the last decade or so. People in the parks generally rent the land their homes are on — they own the structures, not the dirt. Most parks used to be owned by local companies or HOAs, but not so much any more.
The actual owners are now pretty detached from the parks and difficult to reach. Cruzio needs to work with the owners to help their residents get free upgrades to their internet, and it is often a challenge finding anyone willing to answer an email or a phone call.
But we are up for the challenge. It was such a great feeling to “light up” our first mobile home park, the El Rio in downtown Santa Cruz. We’ll never forget the joy when residents saw they had gigabit speeds for their business, their kids’ homework, and their entertainment. Equal, best-of-breed access is what it’s really about.
Here’s Where We Get to Thank Everybody
The Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) championed our cause. The CCBC is a state-funded group of experts who spend their time studying where in our tri-county region (Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito) the internet sucks, and then figuring out how to improve it. Yes, there’s actually someone paying attention to this!
CCBC loved our idea and helped immeasurably. Many thanks especially to Steve Blum and Freny Cooper from Monterey Bay Economic Partnership for their support and for helping us navigate the tsunami of required paperwork, which they somehow understand.
Congress member Jimmy Panetta and his office saw our plan and encouraged us to go forward. Mr. Panetta has been a long-time, well-informed advocate for internet availability and fairness. We’ve seen him take the right side of the argument on Net Neutrality and personal privacy on the internet. He has some top-notch help in his office: Panetta aides Emmanuel Garcia, Matt Manning, and Carina Chavez made sure their boss’s letters of support reached people in the CPUC.
We’re also lucky to have even a State Assembly member who understands the importance of internet to families and businesses around our county. You may not be aware that Mark Stone is a powerful advocate for fast, fair, low-cost internet. He’s tried hard, and against heavy odds, to raise standards in our state. When it comes to EASC, he advocated for his constituents and lent his voice.
The support went down the line. County Supervisors Zach Friend and John Leopold, along with Capitola City Manager Jamie Goldstein and Santa Cruz County Economic Development Manager Andy Constable deserve credit for their participation in the process.
And many thanks to the folks at the CPUC, who gave us the nod. We intend to do them proud. This project will be a feather in their cap.
We know that even when your power is out, you want the internet up and running
Cruzio knows our customers need internet service no matter what the circumstances. And that’s been a big part of our ongoing infrastructure investment.
Our aim is 100% uptime, even when PG&E power is out.
In fact, we aim higher than that: we offer extra service to customers who don’t have power in their homes or offices. If your power is cut, we always want to offer the alternative of coming into our coworking space and using the internet here.
As the PG&E situation gets more challenging, we have to adapt in order to stay close to our goal. This blog describes the steps we’ve taken in the past and what we’re doing now.
We’ve Always Prepared for Outages
We’ve prepared well over the years. As we established our independent fiber optic-backed network, Cruzio bought our own office space in downtown Santa Cruz to house a generator and data center and we’re connected with multiple redundant fiber and wireless backhaul paths.If one of our hubs goes down in a power event, we can reroute traffic in several configurations. Because of this, we’re able to confidently guarantee service levels to enterprise customers — businesses who simply can’t operate without internet. We’ve even been able to come through with sudden demands for emergency internet for local facilities like the County Building.
Meeting the day we got the PG&E outage warnings
We’re proud of our outage response team: Jesus Lopez, Dan Thomas, Chris Frost, Adia Schamber Jones, Justin von Besser, Mark Hanford, Alison Lowenthal, and James Hackett (not pictured). With the rest of our dauntless staff, they keep our network and downtown headquarters up and running, serving thousands of customers.
We have dozens of generators and uninterrupted power supplies (UPSs) to provide power backup to our many facilities around Santa Cruz County and surrounding areas. Cruzio always carries spare UPSs so that in an extended power outage we can cycle them (charge one while deploying another). In an outage, we follow a schedule of rotation and replacement for our UPSs and for fueling and refueling generators. Even when PG&E power is on, we run our main generator once a week to ensure it’s working properly.
We’ve Got a Great Team
Our team, mentioned above, is a crucial part of our uptime efforts. They’re the ones up at 3 am, driving to the top of Loma Prieta in bad weather, making sure the power is on and the internet’s flowing.
And when you add in the extra issues our customers experience in emergencies, every member of our staff contributes. We may not return your call or update your ticket as quickly when we’re in the middle of an outage, but we are listening to and addressing the issues you describe. Please check our network status page or call in for the latest news.
Once, when the elevator power was out, our Director of Technology and Infrastructure, Chris Frost, carried a UPS up 5 flights of stairs. By the time he got to the top and plugged in the equipment, the power had returned. He laughs about it. But he made sure we were ready for an extended failure.
But Now We’ve Got a More Serious Situation
Cruzio has been well prepared for the way things have worked up until the last few months. Generally, in our experience, we’ve had power outages for 3 or 4 hours, or perhaps half a day. The outages have been unplanned, occurring in a limited area, and PG&E has fixed them quickly — often even before their own projections. We are more than ready for that type of power outage; it can be challenging, but we have the equipment necessary to handle it. But this isn’t the only kind of outage we’re seeing now.
In the new paradigm, as a result of climate change we’re living with more extreme weather conditions. Drought, tree-killing diseases and pests, extreme heat, record-breaking winds — all of these have caused a sharp increase in fire danger. On the power-supply side, PG&E filed for bankruptcy based on fire liability. Now they’re shutting down their infrastructure in advance of damage, powering down hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses all at once, and for days — perhaps, they’ve hinted, weeks — at a time. These are much longer outages than our customers and Cruzio are accustomed to.
The climate situation isn’t getting better, and we don’t expect PG&E’s response to improve any time soon. Our community and our business have to adapt.
We’re Looking at Enormous Investments to Deal with Power Outages
Cruzio, as a provider of vital services, has to adapt even faster and more thoroughly than most other businesses.
So the tens of thousands of dollars per year we spend on backup power will have to double and triple. We will likely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on power backups in the next year or so.
Our staff has been drawn thin by the new power paradigm. Over the last weekend we had techs napping in our break room as they waited for their next generator-refueling shift. We’ve added staff to build out our network, and now we’ll need to hire and train more people to take care of our equipment at our many sites. This, too, is costly: responding to power emergencies slows down our network builds. We would rather be building fiber. But until our state figures out a different way, this is the world we have to deal with.
Our Number One Priority is Always Keeping our Current Customers Up and Running
Along with making our network more resilient around the county, we’re improving our in-building power redundancy as well. When customer power is out, we welcome folks to come down to our office and use our internet. We even lower our coworking fees during outages so non-members can get the internet they need.
And we’re working on upgrades to our coworking electrical backups, so that we can accomodate more people. In a long, wide-area power outage, people need a place to go.
But We Need a Better Way
Just to touch on the larger picture: small diesel-fueled machinery like generators are bad for the environment, but people are understandably buying them up. With these long outages the small generators will almost certainly proliferate, and that will exacerbate the climate problem. We need to find other solutions. Cruzio, for example, is looking at using more solar power. We hope that our community as a whole recognizes this issue so we can all address it together and find a better way.
Seeing the 4 am status updates from Dan or spotting Colin, exhausted, between shifts makes us very grateful for the team we have and how much care they put into their work. Many thanks to them for keeping us going. And let’s hope the wind dies down soon so the power can come back on.
This year marks our 30th Anniversary, and as we do every year, we’re set to throw a massive party! But this year, as part of our party, we’re hosting something to really celebrate our landmark anniversary.
This year we decided to do something special: we’re hosting a Jingle Competition! We’re looking to find a song that gets stuck in your head forever and makes you think “Man, I could go for some locally owned, net neutral, fiber-optic internet right now.”
Well, we asked and you responded. So here we present our nominees for the new Cruzio Internet Jingle! We invite you to take a listen below and vote for your favorites. And be sure to come by the Open House Extravaganza on Friday November 1st to see who won (and also just to have a great time at another excellent party.)
Here are the nominees:
And please, let us know what your favorites were below, we’d genuinely love to know.
Here at Cruzio, we’re always looking to upgrade our network infrastructure and our members always get moved to the newest service as soon as humanly possible. We use best-of-breed technologies to connect as many people as we possibly can to the best possible broadband. Right now, as AT&T continues to pull back from supporting and maintaining the copper lines, we’re aggressively building out our independent, Net Neutral fiber-wireless network and moving as many of our Velocity ADSL users over to that service as quickly as we can.
If you’re upgrading from Velocity to Cruzio’s locally-owned and -operated, independent, open and Net Neutral network, here are a few things you might want to know.
What’s the new service all about?
For most folks, this is going to mean switching you to our ultra-fast high-speed wireless service, Wireless Pro. We call it Pro because it’s professional-grade — perfect for connected homes, home businesses or small to mid-sized businesses of all kinds. And our new low price means anyone can afford it.
How’s this going to work?
First step: a site survey. Site surveys come with no commitment or cost, and typically only take 20-30 minutes for our friendly, professional techs to get on the roof of your building to check line-of-sight to one of Cruzio’s many access points and plan any potential wire-runs from the roof to the building. We don’t need you to be present for the survey but if you’d like to be, no problem.
If you happen to be in one of our Certified Buildings (generally an apartment or office building), or if your house had Cruzio Wireless Pro in the past, things are even easier and we can generally skip the survey step.
Once we’ve confirmed eligibility, we’ll schedule the install. For new installations, we’ll mount a small receiver on your roof or eaves and then run wires into your home or office to connect to your wifi gear. If you’ve been living with older copper wiring, you will love the difference our professional work makes. The install will take a few hours and we’ll need a responsible adult there so we can access inside the property. Our techs carry ID and are great with friendly pets.
Is it good for WiFi?
Absolutely. Your internet will be faster. To take advantage of those speeds, you need a good wifi router. If you’re currently renting hardware from Cruzio, we’ll swap that out at no cost to you for a shiny new Gigacenter. It’s a fantastic piece of hardware that’ll give you great wifi speeds and coverage and allow our techs to best support your service in the future. If you don’t currently rent hardware from us, now’s a great time to start. Just add a Gigacenter on the upgrade order form and we’ll install it when we upgrade your connection. If you’d prefer to keep your own hardware, no worries. We just can’t provide the same level of troubleshooting and don’t always anticipate performance will match the Gigacenter.
What about phone?
With mobile phones in all our pockets, we’ve found that many people aren’t using a home phone anymore. If this is you, great. The new service is internet only and blazing fast for all your cloud-based services. If you do still want to keep your phone, the new service doesn’t come with phone included but, don’t worry, we have options. Our recommendation would be to switch to a Voice over IP (VoIP) phone solution. Your new, faster, super-low latency internet service is perfect for VoIP service. There are many VoIP providers, but our research has found that Ooma is one of the best out there. You can grab an Ooma device at Best Buy or Amazon or, if you prefer, you can purchase the unit from Cruzio. It’s not a Cruzio service — Ooma will provide the phone connection and bill you going forward (it’s around $20/mo, much less than a standard landline), but you can get the hardware from Cruzio for $30. Your current phone will plug right into it, and you can keep your current phone number.
Photos taken by the US Geological Survey. For the full folder of photos, check out the USGS website.
072. Santa Cruz’s town clock stopped a few minutes after the earthquake.
073. Pacific Avenue. Brick buildings were a serious liability.
074. Pacific Avenue
075. Pacific Avenue. Yes, our town really looked like this.
076. Some businesses never returned
077. People were injured and killed in downtown SantaCruz. Rescue operations started almost after the quake.
078. Many of our older buildings were lost. Our Downtown/Pacific Avenue commercial area had been listed as a historical district, but is was delisted by the National Register of Historic Places because of the earthquake’s effects.
079. Businesses had to abandon their shops. Many set up in tents — and operated in tents for years after the quake.
082. The levee by the river shows rifts
083. Hillsides collapsed
088. Ford’s department store in downtown Santa Cruz never reopened
063. The Santa Cruz Mountains saw incredible destruction
092. Watsonville, too, experienced massive damage to beautiful old buildings
094. Highway 1 heading south from Watsonville
006. In San Francisco, many buildings had even more dramatic collapses
Cruzio Internet is having a big anniversary and a big, big party — you’re invited!
We founded our company 30 years ago, when the internet was new, experimental, and little known. Santa Cruz plunged right in.
Cruzio opened a storefront on Pacific Avenue in the early 90s
It Wasn’t Just Cruzio. Santa Cruz Was a Leader in Technology
Santa Cruz in the 1980s was full of fire-dancing free-loving hippies. It was also full of tech nerds who worked for Lockheed or Hewlett Packard over the hill. Students hoping to eventually work for the latter but who partied like the former filled out the mix.
Tie dye and pocket protectors got mixed together and produced the internet, with its far-reaching cosmic social effects and solid basis in science and math.
Precise technicians can express a creative side, too
We founded Cruzio, our quintessentially Santa Cruz internet service provider, in 1989, as members of that vibrant, culturally diverse community.
Santa Cruz is an idealistic place, and Cruzio founders Chris Neklason and I had high hopes for humanity. We were inspired by people like John Perry Barlow, the Grateful Dead lyricist and early internet pioneer who proclaimed things like:
“We are in the middle of the most transforming technological event since the capture of fire.”
And we saw the light.
Communication is a powerful and a very human thing. The earliest internet had been set up to exchange scientific data. But almost immediately, even scientists in their labs used the medium for non-technical discussions. They shared with each other science fiction, music, and even knitting tips. Personal use of the internet spread.
Many of us in Santa Cruz were inspired by big ideas about bringing the world together with this radical new form of communication. In the late 1980s, we started Cruzio as a Bulletin Board System (BBS). We kept the equipment in our spare bedroom on Palm Street, on the West Side of Santa Cruz.
BBSs were precursors of ISPs. One of perhaps a dozen in Santa Cruz County, the Cruzio BBS allowed people out in the community to have their computers call our computer on the phone, exchange data, and send commands that our computer would follow. Pretty revolutionary in 1989. Mind-blowing!
Cruzio gamers in our garage — that’s an Apple “laptop” on the left!
Nerds Joined the Internet First, and Had a Ball
People who ran BBSs were called “sysops” and Santa Cruz had an active and collegial sysop community. We had our own sysop news- and email groups for the exchange of vital information: how to create and maintain fast connections from our little county to the rest of the world. It was hard work. For Cruzio, which had hundreds of customers by the early 1990s, it was all-day, all-night work.
We’d had an earthquake early on in Cruzio’s history. We saw that our service could be a lifeline, like ham radio. So we knew it had to be up and running 24/7, 365 days a year.
Most computers only displayed text back then, with rudimentary graphics. But users were creative about what they did with text. We drew pictures (often of cows), wrote poems, designed and played multi-user games. Students and people who worked in tech companies made up most of our users in the early days — they’d had email and newsgroups, and wanted them at home, too.
An ASCII cow
In 1990, when the internet was available to private companies, we jumped on it immediately. Cruzio became one of the first commercial ISPs in the country.
“Join the INTERNET,” we announced, using all caps for this obscure technical term. The software got better, partly due to Santa Cruz-based companies. And as more people put things online, online became more interesting.
In the next several years everyone, not just geeks but everyone, got on the internet.
We Love Our Community and Our Customers
Cruzio was lucky. Santa Cruz, our community, had the vision to embrace this new world early and enthusiastically. Our experiment was successful, and Chris and I were able to quit our day jobs and devote full time to the venture.
Our customers have always loved our fast, reliable internet and reasonable prices. They’ve also loved our local staff, our cats, and our kids. And we’ve responded by constantly working to improve speed and stability of internet connections: dialup begat DSL, DSL gave way to Velocity, and now wireless and fiber connections are replacing everything that came before. We see our company as a connector between the most advanced technology in the world and the needs and capabilities of real humans.
Chris and Peggy in the house where Cruzio started
Cruzio now sells internet connections for $75/month which are often 1,000 times faster than the old 1200 baud (baud!) connections from 1989. The fiber optic cables supplying backhaul to our network carry more data than all the lines supplying all of Santa Cruz County twenty years ago — and we have more than one set of them, for redundancy.
Things move fast.
Many years have passed, and we’re still grateful to a community that embraces creativity and independence, and cares about honesty and hard work.
One of Our Cruzio Family Stories
And in the spirit of mixing the personal and the technical — which is what the internet allows us to do — I’ll end with a timely quote from one of our children, who grew up with modems beeping and buzzing all around her and her funny words written down in the Cruzio newsletter:
“Now I know how cats feel doing jumprope” declared Carly, at age 9, wearing her Halloween costume of cat ears and tail and trying to jump rope.
Thanks for all the support, and here’s to another 30 years of independent internet!
Cruzio’s founder Chris Neklason reading a post-earthquake newspaper. The headlined death toll was more than twice the true number
Cruzio became a company just months before the Loma Prieta quake hit Santa Cruz in 1989.
At that time, there wasn’t much internet to speak of, just connections to email, newsgroups, and some little all-text applications that searched for books and papers on some libraries online.
Cruzio, run out of a spare bedroom in our home on Palm Street, had a few dozen subscribers. They were using Cruzio to communicate with the small number of other people who were online back then. Cruzio’s co-founders Chris Neklason and I had day jobs. It was more a hobby than a business.
All Shook Up
When the ground shook, Chris and I were at work at a local software company called The Santa Cruz Operation, or SCO. Chris was on the second floor. His office chair slid around the room, an effect he at first enjoyed until the danger of a well-stocked bookshelf above him became obvious. On the first floor of the building, after a few seconds of waiting for the shaking to stop, I saw my coworker Raven Brewster dive under a desk and followed suit.
Most quakes — the little ones we have from time to time — last just a few scary seconds. But this was a big one. We crawled out from our under desks after the long seconds of rocking and rolling passed — in all around 15 seconds.
Hundreds of computer manuals had tumbled off shelves. Stuff was all over the floor. The power was out. All the employees slowly made their way to the parking lot.
We looked out from our spot on Mission Street and saw smoke rising from a couple of places downtown. It was silent, eerily so. Cars weren’t moving, everyone had pulled over. Sirens weren’t wailing, at least not at first. Just silence and smoke.
We worried about downed power cables, about the potential for fires from ruptured gas lines — clearly there were already some of those. We couldn’t work, that was for sure. Our managers sent us home.
For Chris and me, home was 317 Palm Street and Cruzio (such as it was) ran in the spare bedroom upstairs.
A Delicious Post-Quake Dinner
After ensuring the gas was off and checking the house for damage, we sat down. No power, certainly not for a long time. We checked the freezer. We’d had a party a few days earlier, and had half a quart of vodka and a gallon of ice cream. We decided it was wise to consume those immediately.
Our families in Sacramento and New York were watching news reports that at first estimated hundreds of deaths and showed San Francisco on fire, Joe DiMaggio waiting on line for water. They learned that Santa Cruz was the epicenter of the disaster — surely we would have even more deaths and destruction! And with power out, little news was getting through. Phone service was spotty. They were relieved to finally hear from us.
Our Little Venture — the Internet — Turned Out to be Vital
Like the rest of our community, Cruzio was affected by the earthquake. Our server was fine but we had no electricity to run it. We ran completely on telephone lines at that time, and the phones were jammed and sporadic.
At first we thought, well, no one around here has electricity anyway, who will want internet?
But we learned otherwise.
In an emergency, communication becomes even more vital than normal. Most people in 1989 didn’t have the ability to get online, but those who did used it as soon as they could, and urgently. We got Cruzio back up and running within three days.
And we started preparing to do better in the next outage.
Realizing that Cruzio provides a lifeline service, we made backups and redundancy — power, telecommunication — a priority from 1989 on. We’ve stayed up all night many times when necessary. We’ve answered calls in heavy rainstorms or when fires were threatening, and rushed to our facilities in the mountains, where it’s even more cold and dark and remote than you can imagine.
If this sounds like the old Post Office motto, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” that makes sense. Like the post office once was, today internet service is a vital way that people communicate. And with the earthquake as our early crucible, we aim to keep our service up and running as long as we can.