Cruzio CEO Message: People Need Way More Internet

 

Santa Cruz surfer statue with a maskCruzio thought we might have less activity during shelter-in-place, but we were wrong.

School kids need more internet
Children who used to access the internet from their school or library don’t have access there any more. So Cruzio has added a considerable number of donated accounts to our work. We’re collaborating with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (COE) to get internet connections to low-income families who need to get their kids online.

If children can’t access the internet, they may fall behind in school, and we can’t let that happen.

We want to give a big shout out to Jason Borgen from the COE, to the Pajaro Valley School District, to individual schools who’ve contacted us, and to the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz, all of whom have been working hard on this. At Cruzio it’s part of our Equal Access Santa Cruz project. And you’re helping too: by being a customer, you’re making it possible for us to extend a hand to neighbors when they need it.

Internet Drive-Ins
But connecting people one home at a time is slow. And some locations are impossible to serve. So Cruzio is supplying internet to “internet drive-ins” around the county. These are parking lots — underused these days — where people can drive up and use high-speed wifi while safely isolated in their cars.

Not Just Students — Everybody Needs Internet
People working and studying at home all day need a lot more internet. Industry reports show that internet use is up 36% around the country. At the same time, business offices are shuttered.

To the extent that Cruzio’s business customers help offset residential accounts, that’s a difficulty. Cruzio is working hard at improving service while at the same time seeing a drop in income.

At the outset of the virus crisis, we set down our priorities:

1. Keep the network running reliably.
2. Continue to employ and pay all existing staff.
3. Extend service to needy people in the county, especially low-income students.
4. Improve service wherever possible, because everybody needs it more.

It’s certainly challenging to work in current conditions. Costs are up, income is down. We’ve had to change plans from buying a new vehicle to repairing our old one. We’re riding all our equipment hard, traveling from one end of the county to another. Our tech support is answering double the calls they did at this time last year. And they’re doing it from their homes, which is an extra complication.

Our field ops crews have developed “no-touch” installations, where we can hook a house up to our faster network without ever going inside. Sure, we miss meeting you, but it’s a very virus-aware option, and we’re happy to do it for your safety and ours.

That’s on top of the regular gloves, masks, and safe distances we’ve been practicing since the beginning. And our managers have been working hard to set up contact tracing. In case any of our employees falls sick with the virus, we will be able to track anyone that person came into close contact with.

We’re Not Even Holding Doors Open for Each Other
We’re thinking of ways to be better at this distancing every day. Chris Frost and James Hackett are our master planners. They have all our crews staying far apart from each other when they have to be at the office — crews are on separate floors of the building, in separate offices, using separate facilities. We’re not even holding the door open for each other. Fresh gloves, surfaces wiped constantly, the whole deal.

The cleaning hasn’t been the hardest part — it’s the isolation. Our crews have always chatted and hung out in the office before leaving for the field and when putting tools away at the end of the day. No one’s complained about the constant wipedowns, but we have had staff mention how much they miss the camaraderie with each other and with customers.

So that’s what it’s like at Cruzio these days. Though we’ll probably all be wearing masks, or waving through a closed window, please know our techs are smiling at you, and saying thanks for being a customer.

Is Coronavirus a Plague?

17th century plague doctor

PPE in the 1600s. Herbs & salts were stuffed in the beak, and the clothes were coated with wax. Not so different from PPE today, really.

Are we living through a plague?

Medically, no.

A plague, in medical terms, refers to a specific family of illnesses. It’s bacterial, and gets to humans through fleabites. Plague is treatable with antibiotics. It was a terrible scourge for many centuries, but at this point it’s relatively rare.

The novel coronavirus, on the other hand, is not caused by a living organism like a bacterium. Viruses are not alive, and antibiotics don’t kill them. It’s interesting that evolutionary forces work on things that aren’t alive — when they propagate successfully, viruses thrive.

In a non-medical sense we are living through a plague: in plague’s other meaning, as a calamity, a dreadful evil. As in, a plague of locusts, or, to a family member who drinks their coffee too noisily, stop plaguing me.

The Practice of Sheltering Goes Way Back

And though we’re not living through a plague as scientifically defined, we are now practicing measures developed in response to plagues of long, long ago. Though people in the 14th century didn’t know what air was composed of — or if it was composed of anything at all — and had no way of seeing tiny particles like bacteria or viruses, they could tell that the Black Death spread from person to person, ship to shore, house to house. So they made efforts to isolate people, as we’re doing now.

14th century Venetians invented quarantine — our word is taken from an Italian phrase, quaranta giorni, meaning forty days. They suffered much more than we are now: Discover Magazine quotes archaeologists who say that on a quarantine island outside Venice, hundreds of bodies were apparently buried on top of each other in layers, “like lasagna.”

Like modern sufferers, Venetian and other governments had problems telling who was sick in time to sequester them. They didn’t have tests, either. And so, like now, authorities often confined the well with the sick.

As Does Our Lack of Mobility

Halting mobility to stop the spread of a disease, another practice recently (and sporadically, through the centuries) revived from the Renaissance era, is called cordon sanitaire. Perhaps the most famous example is from 1665, when a small village in England called Eyam imposed a travel restriction on itself and probably saved thousands of lives in surrounding areas, though 3/4 of its own population died of the plague.

Their cordon sanitaire was used as a firebreak — a wall preventing disease from marching across a country. Our current “shelter in place” is doing the same thing, county by county but also house by house. By walling ourselves off from contact, each of us is sparing our neighbors from possible infection.

It’s not the plague. But in many ways, we are living with some of the same effects.

Four Eagles: A Love Story

Two dads and a mom eagle in the nest

We’ve found another eagle nest streaming live on the internet, and this one is really interesting.

Eagles, like most raptors, mate for life. From Missouri, Audobon.org reports a lovely story of a pair of male eagles raising a family together, first with one female and then another:

“In 2012, when the original pair—Valor I (male) and Hope (female)—began nesting at Lock and Dam 13 on the Mississippi River, Valor I wasn’t a very good partner or father. He was irresponsible about incubating the eggs and feeding the eaglets, which were really his only two jobs.”

The young eagle couple’s first-year eggs hatched, but the eaglets weren’t able to survive the neglect, and died before fledging.

They Needed a Second Dad

Audobon.org continues: “Valor I’s lack of commitment and knowhow was impeding the couple’s ability to successfully reproduce. Then, as if in response to their struggles, a second male, subsequently named Valor II, showed up on the refuge webcam in the fall of 2013. At first, he kept his distance, perching on the edge of the nest or a nearby branch. Before long, though, he appeared to usurp Valor I as Hope’s main partner…. Valor I didn’t seem to mind. He stayed near the nest and wasn’t seen contributing to egg-incubation or eaglet-raising. ‘He was still around but not actively involved,’ Pam Steinhaus, the Visitor Services Manager says. Two eaglets successfully fledged that year.”

Over the next few years, the trio stayed together. Valor I, the original bad dad, gradually took an interest in the nest and became what we might refer to as a stand-up dude. The two dads shared full nest duties with Hope and could be seen on camera feeding and caring for the eaglets. The eagle parents each had their strengths.

“‘The boys would put sticks in the nest, but they never put them in the right spot,’ Steinhaus says. ‘Hope was always replacing sticks in the spots where she wanted them to go.'” And by the way, even though their nests looks pretty ramshackle, eagles do seem to spend a lot of time neatening up.

The threesome coparented for several years.

Then, Tragedy. But Wait…

But sadly, in a series of attacks on their nest by neighboring eagles in 2017, Hope was apparently killed. (Not to get judgmental about wildlife, but those other eagles seem horrid.) The two dads, Valor I and Valor II, continued to defend and care for the nest. They raised the eaglets successfully without their mate.

And Valor I and Valor II stayed together as a couple. They were joined by new female named Starr later in 2017 and the three have been raising eaglets every year since. There are two eaglets in their nest right now, about a month old and looking pretty teenage-gawky — you can see them on live stream cameras.

How to Access Your Cruzio Account Via Our Payment Portal

Cruzio Internet account center

Our friendly front desk is closed for the duration of the shelter in place. Seemed like a good time to remind everyone that, if you need to make any changes to your account or pay your bill, our spiffy account portal allows you to do all that from the comfort of your favorite chair.

How, you ask?

1/ Head over to myaccount.cruzio.com or go to Cruzio.com and click the little credit card icon on the upper right. Next to the envelope. To the left of ‘Contact Us’. Above the Search bar. You’ll see it.

2/ Once you’re there, click ‘Login’ in the upper-left corner.

3/ If you’ve been here before and by some miracle remember your login and password, enter them and click ‘login’. If you remembered them right, you’re in. Jump ahead to item 5.

If you don’t have a login or don’t remember, what’s next has a couple of steps. That’s annoying, but two things: One, it’s really not that bad, just a few steps. And two, it’s all to protect your account. Good protection has to put up barriers. And you only need to do it once. Now, on to the next steps…

4a/ If you don’t know your login, click the link on the right that reads, “request new login credentials via email by clicking here.” Then enter the email address associated with your account and we’ll email that address right away with a reset code. The email will have the subject line, “Login ID Reset Request” and contain a six digit code.

Enter that code, a login ID of your choice and a password into the form you’re directed to and click ’submit’. Passwords must be 7+ characters in length and must include: one number, one special character, and upper or lower case alphabetic characters. We know, right? If your password doesn’t check all those boxes, you’ll get an error in obnoxious red text. Try again.

Once you’re in, skip on down to item 5.

(If you get a different error in obnoxious red text saying ‘DuplicateLoginID’, that means you actually have been here before and that login already exists. Either create a new login or go back to the main login screen and follow the link to reset password. You can create a new login using the same email address.)

4b/To reset your password, from the login screen, click where it says, “Forgot your password? If so request a new one via email by clicking here.”. Enter your login id and you’ll receive an email very similar to the new ID request email, with another six digit code. Enter that code in the form and pick a new password. You’ll automatically be logged in.

5/ Once you’re logged in you’ll see links to view any saved payment methods, make a payment or look at your bill. 

6/ To pay your bill click ‘make payment’, choose the payment method, enter the payment amount and hit ’make payment’.

You’re done. You’ll get a receipt via email. Thanks for supporting local, independent broadband.

Watch Out for COVID-19 Scams

There’s no tragedy that doesn’t attract scammers.

With the Coronavirus, here’s what the FTC says to watch out for.

Basically, a lot of people are looking for funds from the government, whether for small business loans or individual $1200 relief checks. But the processes for receiving these aren’t always clear, and there are delays. That’s a perfect situation for scams.

“Brokers” and “agents” are already approaching people via phone and email, promising quick delivery of payments. Sometimes they pose as a bank or as a government representative.

Another type of scam targets people worrying about their health. Fake vaccines, fake medicine, fake tests.

And as always, be careful to check requests for charitable donations. We like to check Charity Navigator before giving. And it is a good time to consider giving, especially to hospitals and food banks.

To avoid fraudsters, it’s time to keep a sharp eye out. And tell your friends and family to watch out, too.

“No-Contact” Installations

In a time like this, internet access is crucial. Cruzio is taking all the necessary precautions to stay safe while remaining fully operational to serve Santa Cruz County. All staff who are able to work remotely are now working from home. Staff working out in the field have a rigorous protocol to follow that keeps themselves and our customers safe. 



We provide “no contact” installs which eliminate the need to enter your home. Safety procedures for your install begin at the office where our Field Operations teams wear gloves and a mask at all times, and customer equipment is sanitized and boxed up before going to an installation. When a team goes out to install you, they will let you know they have arrived by phone call or a knock on the door. They will complete all of the outside work, leave your router at a window or the front door, then walk at least six feet away as you take the equipment. Then, we’ll walk you through the simple steps to plug in your router. We will perform a speed test outside the house to make sure everything is operating properly, and check with you for any questions before promptly leaving.

That’s our side of the process. We also ask all of our customers to be in communication with us. If anyone in your household or office space is experiencing symptoms of illness, please let us know so that we can reschedule accordingly. There is no charge for a canceled installation when it’s done for health reasons, and we encourage anyone needing to reschedule their survey or installation for health concerns to please do so. Our teams appreciate it!

We look forward to this crisis being over — when we can speak in person with our customers and provide more close-up assistance. Until then, we’re following county and state-standard guidelines to make sure we’re doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 while making sure everyone is connected at home.

COVID-19: Cruzio Wants You to Get Better Internet

Cruzio Internet headquarters

We’re working hard, keeping the network running

Hello again from Cruzio, where 80% of our staff, including yours truly, is working from home.

It feels like we’re right back where we started 30+ years ago, doing tech support, programming, and admin tasks from the kitchen table.

The other 20% of our staff is in the field, maintaining and improving the connections we know you need — especially right now. Our techs are carefully disinfecting and washing everything frequently, and they’ll stay a safe “social distance” from people. But we are still installing and upgrading equipment — we need our network to keep pace with the recent uptick in bandwidth usage.

Everything is coronavirus-related these days, from the repeated hand-washing and social distancing to the heavier-than-ever use of the internet.

Internet — Who Needs It?

The internet’s a lifeline when we’re sheltering in place. Kids have to have it for school. Grownups need it for work. The internet even helps people connect to important health resources, like pharmacies and doctors.

And everyone goes online to stay occupied and connected with friends and family.

Plus, Netflix, of course.

For some of us, as a matter of survival we leave the Disney Channel on for the kids or binge on YouTube Videos for Pets to amuse the cat while we try to get a little work done.

(Check out this collection of adorable Cruzio pets! Lots of us get the benefit of non-human companionship when we work from home.)

How to Get Better Internet

The quality of your connection depends a lot on us, so Cruzio is always looking for ways to make it better, especially now. But there are things you can do, too.

We’ve been identifying people who have older, copper-based connections (Velocity and DSL) and emailed those folks when we think they could benefit from an upgrade to a wireless connection. You may see an email like that in your mailbox. We’re not charging setup fees to make the change — it’s easy, free, and you’ll end up paying the same per month as you do now, for a better connection. As our network expands, we’re able to offer that to more people, so if we haven’t gotten to you yet, hopefully we will soon.

And part of that expansion — here’s where being part of a local community helps — is finding hubs in your area where we can put gear to better serve your neighborhood.

Sometimes it’s a tall apartment building, or a house up on a hill. People who put access points on their property get free internet from Cruzio.

So that’s a project if your area doesn’t have good internet: find the place in your neighborhood that sees a lot of other places, and have them contact us.

We’ve also been combing through our equipment rental records to see who has older modems or routers. If your equipment is getting long in the tooth, we’ll contact you (we may have already — we do this regularly) to ask if we can replace it. Now might be an especially good time to do that.

If you don’t rent our equipment, have a peek at your modem and/or router, that little box with the blinking lights. Covered with dust? Can’t remember when you bought or inherited it? Might be time to contact us for a better option.

And for our part we will be keeping our network up and running, and sending out our crews to fix any problems that occur on our side of the connection. We can’t avoid all problems, but we promise we’ll get to them quickly.

What Else Are Our Crews Doing? Bringing Internet to Kids in Need

When the schools closed a couple of weeks ago, the “digital divide” immediately became an emergency.

Kids now need to school from home, but some families don’t have an internet connection at their house. And most of the public internet access spots — libraries, coffee shops — are closed.

So Cruzio is working with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (COE) to identify income-qualified students who need internet, and get it to them.

We’re kitting these students out with our best stuff: high-speed wireless internet with our spiffiest router to supply internet throughout their house. And it’s free for three months. It’s what we thought we could do to help the situation.

The hero of this effort is Jesus Lopez, our Sales & Marketing Manager, and here’s why: many of the people who call us about this program don’t speak English, so Jesus, who’s bilingual, offered to take all the calls. He explains the program to the callers and sets up appointments when they’re qualified. He listens to the parents as they describe their situations, which are sometimes really difficult. His notes in their accounts are inspiring to all of us.

We’re also working with schools and other organizations to install pop-up, drive-in wifi hotspots. We can put up wifi in a parking lot or other open area so that folks with no other option for good internet can drive up, download their assignments, upload their presentation or join their video call, all without leaving the confines of their socially-distanced automobiles.

So that’s a good note to end on: all of us trying to do a little something for each other in these trying times. Shop local. Say a real thank you to the checker at the grocery store — that must be a scary job these days. Wave to your neighbors as you pass by — at a good distance away, of course. It all helps.

Love in the Time of Corona: Part I

It’s been a wild ride these last couple weeks. As I sit here in my bedroom, typing to the rhythm of mellowed out percussion on Death Cab for Cutie’s “Lightness” off the album Transatlanticism, it’s easier to reflect on this journey now that there is some distance between trauma and calm, between past and present.

Leaving our physical office space en masse was surreal, to say the least. But now that I’ve been away for over a week, working out of my room answering billing calls and Cruzioworks emails beneath a canopy of bachelor-esque wall decor, it’s becoming normal. There’s a radical card my dad made me a while ago featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle almost leaping right off the page, gesturing wildly with their arms as if to present the other wall art. There’s a full-sized movie poster for hit anime film Your Name. There’s a really frickin’ cool cardboard standee of Boba Fett, infamous bounty hunter introduced in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (fact check me Brian, but Fett was pretty instrumental in helping the Empire strike back). And every geek token has its place—carefully arrayed to maximize productivity.

Observing Fancy Friday from home.

Inspiration to clean

Working from home offers the same thing owning a virtual reality rig offers: inspiration to clean! Being able to focus on work in a professional office-like environment requires a clean desk, and VR requires two by two meters of tidy floor space. My room has never looked better. But lacking motivation my room quickly becomes as apocalyptic as our current existence. Which brings me to my next point. I can be lazy.

Mostly highs

For the low energy and uninspired, working from home is an incredible thing. There was one day this week when after getting to bed late I hit snooze more times than ever before, and when I finally got up, I had just enough time to walk four feet away to my workstation. I made it to work on time and immediately started answering calls. I groped around on the ground for a breakfast bar until I found something that resembled granola. It’s a lovely existence.

On lunch breaks, I’m able to fire up my gaming computer and play something online with one of my longtime friends. My housemates might be a little confused as to why one moment they hear “Cruzio Billing Department, this is Alex,” and then the next moment they hear “DIE NAZI SCUM! YOU’RE NO MATCH FOR MY COLT .45!”

Work is still work, just subtly different

The most significant change is the unsurprising amount of foot traffic I’m getting now. I had one walk-in yesterday. It was my housemate and he wanted to talk about nerf guns. I had a walk-out. But it was just me going downstairs to tell my housemates I fixed the internet. A large part of this week and last involved meeting the needs of Cruzio’s coworking tenants. The subtle difference is now it’s done via email and all the issues are caused by the crisis our collective conscience wrestles with.

Another one: I was on a conference call with my department and my colleague tells me my sound quality is crackling. I laughed and explained this was probably interference from my decorative steel katana I had been swinging between the wireless headset and the base station. It’s been a wild ride these last couple weeks. ~ Alex

Who’s Working from Home? The Pet Edition

Now that Cruzio’s staff is mostly working from home, we get to meet each other’s pets as we videoconference. Here’s a sampling of pet photos from our non-human-wfh-officemates channel:

 

Sometimes we barely realize they’re there

Cam's spherical cat

Cam’s spherical cat

Peggy's spherical cat

Peggy’s spherical cat

Jesus's pup is tuckered out

Jesus’s pup is tuckered out

 

Though they might cop an attitude

 

Do not mess with Ocean

Do not mess with Ocean

 

 

Because cats and cabbages

Because cats and cabbages

 

My office mate refuses to talk to me

My office mate refuses to talk to me

 

Aw man, almost Monday

Aw man, almost Monday

 

What are you doing here?

What are you doing here?

 

Other times they seem to think they could be doing the job better, frankly,  than we seem to. And maybe they’re right…

 

Taxidermist monitors the power tools

Taxidermist monitors the power tools

 

If Mark forgets to close the door, Jasper wants equal time

If Mark forgets to close the door, Jasper wants equal time

 

Milton & Molly notinterested in discussing James using the kitchen table today

Milton & Molly not interested in discussing James using the kitchen table today

 

Oh you think you're gonna use the computer?

Oh you think you’re gonna use the computer?

 

Well so will I. TO TAKE A BATH.

Well so will I. TO TAKE A BATH.

 

Ziggy is stoked to videoconference

Ziggy is stoked to videoconference

Fulton enjoys working from home

Fulton enjoys working from home

 

Bent to tie my shoe and I am now Milton's ergonomic workstation

Bent to tie my shoe and I am now Milton’s ergonomic workstation

 

Iasha's cat plays fetch and keeps bringing her toys

Iasha’s cat plays fetch and keeps bringing her toys

 

But you know, when we look up from a long day’s work at home, it’s nice to see that friendly non-human officemate’s face…

 

Something special about walking down the hall and seeing your dog sitting there dressed in a Hawaiian shirt

Something special about walking down the hall and seeing your dog sitting there dressed in a Hawaiian shirt

Homeward Bound: A Coronavirus Story

The last couple of weeks have been an utter whirlwind. Providing customer support for our shared coworking space has been a unique challenge. There’s no roadmap for dealing with a crisis like this, so — like billions of citizens around the world — we’ve been figuring it out one day at a time.

This worldwide event sometimes feels like an action movie. We are living through the second most searched-for film on PS4: yes, I am referring to Pandemic.

Taking active and highly visible measures and then communicating those measures to our coworking community has been major in the early stages. Door handles, sink faucets, appliances, and anything frequented by human hands was sanitized twice a day. We have still been operating mostly like normal. Staff’s been taking every precaution, including washing our hands as soon as we set foot in our office. We’ve been taking advice from our community to heart, and did deep cleanings of the restroom walls, particularly around hand dryers.

Our friends at Peachy Kleen made a special visit and professionally cleaned our meeting rooms, the atrium, and every black fabric chair throughout the atrium last Saturday. On Monday I thoroughly wiped down the leather chairs in the Atrium.

Our efforts had two key purposes: to do our part to slow the spread of novel coronavirus to keep our community healthy, and to soothe our tenants in these tense and uncertain times. The optics of witnessing me wiping down a surface were almost as important as the wiping itself!

This goes straight to the heart of the importance of good communication. The CDC kept local governments informed of developments in the spread of coronavirus and Santa Cruz County followed other local municipalities and ordered a “shelter in place” effective Tuesday, March 17 at midnight. In turn, we did our best to publish the steps we were taking and relaying this information to tenants at every turn. We were figuring it out one day at a time.

I had the most surreal birthday yesterday. Most of our staff, nearly thirty people, packed up their essential belongings, computers, monitors, keyboards, mice — anything they might need to work from home. It felt like the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when the resilient Rebels are evacuating the ice planet Hoth. And we all know that feeling.

Our field operations and sysadmin teams, undaunted by the task at hand, transported and set up remote workstations in bedrooms and on dining room tables of countless employees in countless homes. In less than a day, we had moved an entire company. We had never done this before at such scale.

I type this from my bedroom. I’m optimistic that with these extreme measures, through this bizarre mass social experiment, we’ll come out of this stronger and more resilient than ever. Like Empire this will undoubtedly get worse before it’s over. But ultimately, by the end of the sequel Return of the Jedi our heroes are victorious, evil is pushed back and vanquished, and everyone gets to throw a huge party with the Ewoks.

~ Alex