Santa Cruz Fiber and the Mini Maker Faire

mini maker faire

Makers are an important piece of Santa Cruz’s identity. From companies like Inboard, who’re building the future of personalized transportation, to the many artists and creators creating new works every single day in places like Idea Fab Labs, making is engrained into our community’s DNA. That’s why Santa Cruz Fiber is proud to sponsor, and be featured at, this year’s Mini Maker Faire!

So who exactly are makers, and why are they having a faire? To answer the first question, according to Make magazine, everyone is a maker in some way. Basically, if you’ve ever taken pride creating something, then guess what?–you’re a maker! Concerning makers, former MythBusters host Adam Savage said: “Humans do two things that make us unique from all other animals; we use tools and we tell stories. And when you make something, you’re doing both at once.”

To answer the second question, the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire is a celebration of our local makers, all of the things they create, and all of the unique ways in which they create them. In an interview with Santa Cruz Tech Beat, Mini Maker Faire creator Zaq Roberts described this year’s event as “Part science fair, part county fair, part electronics show.” Last year’s event had 45 different exhibitors showing off their projects, such as Virtual Reality rollercoasters and 3D printing demonstrations.

This year’s lineup is already shaping up to be excellent as well. UCSC-based Formula Slug will be showing off their FS-0, a completely electric vehicle they built to compete in in last year’s Formula SAE Electric competition. And representatives from Prunedale’s Manzanita Park will let visitors begin their bike racing careers by setting up an actual BMX track starting gate (so be forewarned, parents).

Of course Santa Cruz Fiber will be on hand to show off what we’re making as well: our brand new citywide fiber network! We’ll be giving visitors a hands-on look at the technology that’s going to bring gigabit internet to Santa Cruz, and how it all works. And if you have questions about what the build is going to look like, this is the perfect place to talk to us in person, and learn more about our big project.

If you want to get in on the fun, you can buy tickets right now on their website. The fair opens its doors at 10AM and runs until 5PM this Saturday, April 29th.

#fiberforall Spotlight: MBEP Part 1

MBEP Economic Summit

Our last #fiberforall spotlight featured local nonprofit Digital Nest, highlighting their expansion into Salinas from Watsonville and demonstrating the importance of thinking regionally. This week we want to showcase the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, otherwise known as MBEP. They’re a nonprofit economic development organization that is leading the charge in fostering a regional perspective for the Central Coast.

According to the Salmon Valley Business Journal: (which surprisingly had the best definition we could find) “Economic development [is] defined as efforts that seek to improve the well-being and quality of life for a community by creating and/or retaining jobs, and supporting or growing incomes and the tax base.

On a local level this means channelling investment into defined areas of need, like workforce development, entrepreneurship, infrastructure (*cough* Fiber *cough*), and quality of life metrics like access to education and housing. Specifically, MBEP is a membership organization of local governments and companies who all have a vested interest in improving our region. To do this, they build relationships, gather data, and advocate for industry best practices–like defining the best way to build a local broadband network (Go Sunesys Go!).

Central Coast leaders gather

Business leaders from across the central coast gather for an MBEP event

MBEP believes in the power of convening leaders from all over the tri-county region to share best practices, identify innovative solutions, and make important new connections for future collaboration” says MBEP President Kate Roberts.

We couldn’t agree more. Often sharing ideas across boundaries that don’t normally cross can lead to fantastic outcomes. If you believe in what MBEP is doing and want to learn more visit their website, and stay tuned as we highlight one of their big projects projects in part 2 of our #fiberforall spotlight next week.

And one more thing…MBEP is hosting a region wide economic summit for the entire Monterey Bay on May 4th, and we will definitely be there. Maybe we will see you too!

#fiberforall Spotlight: Digital NEST Part 2

NEST Members get a preview of the Salinas space

In Santa Cruz Fiber’s #fiberforall Spotlight last week we took a look at some of the excellent work being done by Digital NEST in Watsonville. They’ve been bringing new technology to young adults that normally wouldn’t have the same access to that tech, and offering new opportunities to youth in Santa Cruz County. Today, we’re setting our sights on Digital NEST’s future, as they expand outside of Watsonville, this time to the neighboring city of Salinas.

This Thursday, April 13th from 6 to 8PM, the NEST will hold a “sneak peak” of their brand new program in Salinas at the Cesar Chavez Library. Anyone who’s interested in their work is welcome to come see the new space and learn about the work the organization has already done, as well as what they will add to the Salinas tech landscape before the new program opens its doors on Monday April 17th.

“We’re excited about getting started in Salinas, and being a place where members come to work together, help each other, and explore opportunities for futures in tech,” says Ximena Ireta-Lopez, Digital NEST’s Operations Manager.

There’s already excitement building, as some Salinas students have already talked to existing NEST members in the new space to learn how the program has already helped them find a love of technology, and a future in the tech industry.

All of us at Santa Cruz Fiber continue to be amazed by the work and approach of the NEST and their mission, as well as how quickly they have blossomed into a staple Santa Cruz County nonprofit. Now, we wish them all of the best as they expand beyond their home County to help even more young people along the central coast cross the digital divide, and find a future in technology.

And if you happen to know (or be) a 12-24 year old who wants to get involved with the Digital NEST, you can find out more on their website.

#fiberforall Spotlight: Digital NEST Part 1

Digital NEST Group Shot

Here at Santa Cruz Fiber, we believe that high-speed, affordable internet should be available to everyone. So it always makes us happy to hear when local organizations and businesses in the community are using these services to do great things. That’s why we want to take the time to recognize some of these achievements in our community in what we’re calling the #fiberforall Spotlight. For our first feature, we want to recognize the excellent work being done at Digital NEST.

Located in Watsonville right now, Digital NEST acts as a place for young adults 18-24 years old to have free access to computers, wi-fi, state of the art digital tools and classes–all for free. Their goal is to help young minds flourish, and to help them gain technical skills to find careers in the tech industry when they’re ready.

The Infosys Foundation recently gave Digital NEST founder Jacob Martinez the opportunity to tell them his thoughts on helping a team of NEST members get into the CSin3 accelerated Computer Science degree program at Hartnell College and CSU Monterey Bay. It’s a very compelling story, and it shows just how important Digital NEST’s work is. It’s giving the tools to succeed to a group of highly-motivated people that wouldn’t have the same opportunities otherwise.

Four of the students who were recently accepted into the acclaimed CSin3 program

High speed internet is an integral piece of helping them succeed in their mission. “High speed internet is no longer a privilege but a fundamental necessity, to ensure every individual has equal access to information and a voice in today’s global economy,” says Jacob. We totally agree.

We want to thank Digital NEST for their excellent mission to empower the next generation of tech leaders. Santa Cruz Fiber stands behind you 100% of the way.

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

 

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

People have been asking Cruzio if we sell personal data.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Privacy on the Internet: Cruzio’s Take

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

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

What’s this loss of privacy about?

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

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

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

Why would anyone want to remove privacy protections?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there a silver lining to this situation?

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

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

The Battle for Online Privacy Has Shifted to the States–And That’s a Good Thing

Last week saw some troubling developments for online privacy. First off, the Senate passed legislation that would essentially allow large telecommunications companies to sell your personal data to highest bidder. If that wasn’t enough, Congress is now working on a joint Congressional Review Act (CRA) that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from ever writing new privacy protection rules in the future.

It’s obvious now that the federal government isn’t going to do much in the way of standing up for your digital rights, and that shouldn’t be surprising. But It isn’t all bad…

As the New York Times documented earlier this week, State governments are stepping in to fill the void left by the feds. They’re introducing privacy legislation of their own, which is proving to be much more effective at protecting consumer data. Specifically, states like Illinois, Connecticut, and even California have started crafting bills that would:

  • Give consumers a “right to know” which companies are collecting their data, and what they’re looking at
  • Limit the use of location tracking for commercial purposes
  • Prevent the involuntary use of microphones and cameras on smart devices
  • Restrict government access to online communications like emails
  • Prohibit companies from spying on their employees’ social media accounts without permission

While this approach may seem like a piecemeal strategy for influencing policy on a large scale, consider what happened when California adopted stricter fuel standards than the rest of the country in 2010. Even though automotive manufacturers could have produced two sets of cars, one for the more lax federal standard and one to meet California’s new requirement, they instead chose just to meet California’s standard because it was cheaper than developing two different vehicles.

While this comparison isn’t totally analogous to the situation regarding online privacy standards (because software is cheaper to build than cars), it does provide the opportunity for moral leadership, and regulations that could be implemented in the state these companies are probably based in: California.

California could choose to adopt more stringent privacy standards and additional legislation like the bills mentioned above because: a) it’s the right thing to do, and b) many of these larger companies that are in the business of managing consumer data (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) are located right here in Silicon Valley.

While this new legislation may not entirely thwart these and other companies’ attempts to capture and sell consumer data, it will certainly create some legal hurdles for them to do so, which would at least lead to greater transparency. And if the New York Times article was illustrative of anything, it’s that legal and political compliance costs maybe the single greatest motivator to default to the highest level of protection.

The New iPhone Update is Coming. Make Sure Your Data Is Safe

Apple will be introducing a brand new file system in its upcoming iOS version: iOS 10.3. It’s called the Apple File System, and it will replace the older, existing format that’s quickly approaching 30-years-old — that’s a dinosaur in tech years.

When this new update goes live, all of the files on your iPhone will need to be converted to this new format. That means if something goes wrong during the update you could lose a lot of your important data. There’s an easy way to prevent disaster: be sure to back your phone’s data up. The easiest way to do this is to follow these instructions on Apple’s support website.

After everything is properly updated and working, you’ll find a lot of positive things about this update aside from a few new bells and whistles (no more lost AirPods with the new “Find my AirPods” feature!) and minor aesthetic changes. Apple is claiming that this change in the way files are stored will also mean stronger encryption, and more secure files.

There’s also fantastic news for folks that are constantly seeing notifications telling you that you’re out of space: the new file system could also make your iPhone more efficient. Files on your phone should take up less space than they do on the current version. That means the update may free up large chunks of data on your phone, leaving you with more room for dog and cat pictures!

 

Fiber Internet is #notthatkindoffiber

@notthatkindoffiberInternet infrastructure can be boring, like broccoli. We get that, but it’s also tremendously important. Think of how much of your life is absolutely dependent on the internet. Having consistent, fast, and reliable access to the digital world is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. That’s where Santa Cruz Fiber comes in.

Given its utter indispensability, you would think more people would take the time to actually learn how it works, but nope. In fact, we’ve found that when we talk about “fiber”, most people think we’re talking about vegetables, or whole-wheat cereal or something. But what if I told you that you need a healthy diet of both types of fiber to be successful?

That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to start a new education campaign about the benefits of a good internet connection, and no, it’s not about vegetables. While a heaping dose of food-based fiber can help keep your insides healthy, our fiber is aimed at helping your business, your productivity, and your HD Netflix stream instead. So you can keep going to the farmer’s market to keep your doctor happy by eating artichokes and broccoli, but we’re not about that kind of fiber here. We just want to make your internet as fast and affordable as possible.

Fiber’s the way to do that, and Cruzio is building that fiber — we call it Santa Cruz Fiber.

Keep your eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where we’ll be making sure you know that Santa Cruz Fiber is #notthatkindoffiber.

Santa Cruz Fiber: Project Overview

With only a few weeks left before we begin working on our brand-new fiber infrastructure, we wanted to make sure you know exactly why Santa Cruz Fiber is as great as we say it is. Here’s what you can expect to see when Santa Cruz Fiber comes to your neighborhood in our project overview:

The Benefits

There’s a lot of hype about fiber optic internet. Is it really that much better?

The short answer? Yes. Fiber will make a huge difference for everyone in our community. Think back to the days when people went from radio to TV — or oil lamps to candles. It’s that much of a generational change in technology, and it will lead to further changes in the services we can all use and enjoy.

The difference fiber makes is capacity. Right now the “information highway” is clogged because it’s not big enough for all the data — movies, photos, music, games — to flow through. The result is predictable: high demand when there’s limited capacity leads to high prices and strained service.

Fiber increases the capacity of internet connections by a factor of at least ten (to even a hundred) right from the start.

And that’s just the first stage. With upgraded equipment, internet connections can be thousands or even millions of times faster, and surely will be in years to come.
While it’s a leap forward, fiber is not a new or risky technology. It’s tried and tested. Big corporations and institutions have had fiber connections for decades, and fiber is already used as the backbone of communications networks. But now home users are now demanding as much throughput as a whole office building did ten years ago!

In fact, the kind of fiber Santa Cruz Fiber is working with was initially developed for installation under the ocean, connecting the continents. Talk about built to last! You don’t want to have to go repairing something at the bottom of the ocean.

Another one of the main benefits of fiber is that it’s future-proof — we expect fiber laid today to last as long or longer than the copper network we’re still using, most of which was installed over half a century ago. Fiber is a great investment in your home or office building, and a fiber-to-every-home network is a great investment in our community.

The Project

Fiber internet is on its way to you.

Cruzio recognized that Santa Cruz needs better internet infrastructure many years ago. Remember the fiber cut of 2009? That, plus generally unreliable service and inadequate investment from existing infrastructure owners, gave us a sense of urgency for our big build — and for becoming independent of national corporate networks. Enter Santa Cruz Fiber.

Since then we’ve been hard at work. Cruzio has “lit” fiber in several spots in Santa Cruz County over the last several years, most notably at our headquarters in downtown Santa Cruz. Our building is a showcase for what 10 gigabits of fiber can do — just ask our coworkers! We expect to light up our first full neighborhood, covering most of downtown Santa Cruz, in the summer of 2017.

And we’re just getting started.

There have been some bumps along the road. Our first plan was to connect the entire City of Santa Cruz in a two-year construction timeline. That proved too ambitious, and we’ve found it better to do a phased build, which we will accelerate as as more people get excited and sign up. The participation of our community is vital to the network’s growth.
We’ve done our homework. Cruzio has been researching fiber optic construction for so long that we’ve met the best and most reliable specialists from around the country, and we’ve hired them to design our network and train our 100% local employees in how to run it. We’re going first class, built to last.

Our first neighborhood will provide low-cost (aiming for around $50/mo!), extremely high-speed internet to residents and businesses, and we need uptake to make it successful. For Cruzio’s part, we will build the network right. It will create a long-term competitive environment for an important utility that benefits homes and businesses. And for your part:

  • If you’re in the first fiber neighborhood, you can help us by being a customer.
  • You can help us even if you’re not in the first neighborhood, by following our progress, spreading the word and by subscribing to our other services while we work on expanding. (Note: fiber-to-the-home isn’t our only gigabit service! We have lots of excellent fiber-backed options available right now.
  • Get really involved — become a fiber champion! It’s a team of local citizens who are working to get this done. We have meetups, events and generally have a lot of fun while spreading the word.
  • And if you’re currently a customer, thanks! You’re already helping build the future of internet in Santa Cruz County and you’re first on our priority list as we grow.

After our first phase, our plan maps for moving ahead to up to half a dozen neighborhoods. As the first build begins to pay off, the surrounding neighborhoods will follow. The more popular we are, the faster our network will grow.

What’s Fiber Like?

3d rendering of an optic fiber cable

Fiber optic cables contain strands of pure spun glass that can be miles long. Data travels along the glass in the form of light, and amazingly the cable can be bent up to 90 degrees or wrapped around columns and still carry the light. Hundreds of these glass strands are bundled together and placed in flexible but environment-protective sheaths.
One thing we love about fiber optics is that it’s a benefit environmentally. Power usage is lower than with other technologies. Electromagnetism and heat are reduced. Crystal-clear telecommuting will reduce the number of people commuting by car.

On each end of the fiber, lasers send and transceivers read the light, converting it into data that computers can read and display.
Some differences between fiber optics and other infrastructure:

  • Attenuation and interference are less of an issue with fiber than with copper phone and cable lines.
  • Fiber doesn’t heat up when it’s in use, and isn’t a fire hazard.
  • Fiber doesn’t carry an electric charge, so it is much less dangerous than power lines if cut.
  • Fiber optic cables are each thinner than a human hair, so a cable supplying hundreds or thousands of buildings is far less of a disruption to install than common construction projects like water or sewer lines.

How It Gets to You

Ah, construction. How will it affect the neighborhood, and your home, apartment or office building?

Cruzio plans to install the first neighborhood’s cable almost completely underground. We expect to use a technique called “trenchless installation” which uses a directional drill to push conduit up to hundreds of feet underground from relatively small holes dug at intervals along a street. When needed, we may also string cable on utility poles. We don’t expect to be digging long trenches like water and power lines often do. We are working closely with the Department of Public Works of the City of Santa Cruz to minimize disturbance to streets or traffic. We live here, and we don’t want to inconvenience our neighbors!

From the fiber main lines in streets, like other utilities we will extend branches to each building along a street that wants service. Usually, for residences, a box measuring about 1’ by 18” by 5” deep will be attached to the side of the house closest to the cable run. The box is weatherproof. It should not be opened by anyone other than Cruzio staff, but it can be painted or decorated — like the phone and cable boxes most people have today.

Normally, we will make two visits to a house for the outside connection. The first will be to assess the best route from the street to the building, and the next to actually install the connection. Residents don’t need to be present for those visits, though we are always glad to see you.

After the outside box is placed on the house, our technicians will schedule a house call. This time, the resident will need to be present as we’ll do the required inside wiring for the main connection, hook up the router which will serve all the devices in the house, test the connection and give a brief introduction to how it all works.

You will love our technicians. They all live locally and they are a knowledgeable, experienced and friendly bunch. They also have one goal: to get you an internet connection that will last you a lifetime and be as trouble-free and enjoyable as possible.