Cruzio and the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989

Chris after the Loma Prieta earthquake

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.

Eerie Scene

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.

Save the date! November 1st, 2019

Cruzio’s Annual Open House Extravaganza and 30th Anniversary

Come celebrate with Cruzio! We’re having our annual open house the night after Halloween, and you’re invited! We’ll have all the usual, like awesome food trucks, craft beer provided by Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, music (more on that in a little), and beautiful art. Free admission, free booze, all conveniently on First Friday November and at our downtown headquarters.

This year is especially important to us here at Cruzio, because we’ve officially been in business for a mind-blowing 30 years! We are very excited to commemorate that with all of our customers, city leaders, friends, neighbors, and more, and hope you can make it.

We mentioned music before, but this won’t just be a playlist of rockin’ 80’s music (though we are excited to have a curated playlist by our very own rockin’ James Hackett). We are having our first ever jingle contest! What’s that you say? Glad you asked. We’re offering a load of prizes (totaling out at $1,500) for writing and performing your take on a good jingle for us! Internet fame, cash, and the change to perform at our party! You can find more information at
jingle.cruzio.com.

We hope you can come and join us for this unforgettable night, and can’t wait to party!

Remember the Cruzio Baby?

Cruzio's family in 1997

1997: Cruzio kept the family in tie-dye in the early years

Why are Those Kids on the Counter?

When Chris and Peggy started up Cruzio as a real business, there was an unexpected benefit: they got to bring their babies to work every day.

From infancy, the kids were extremely popular with staff and customers. People cooed and smiled at them, and even sometimes held them while a parent typed on a keyboard or got files from a drawer.

These babies did not tolerate playpens — when placed in a playpen, they’d simply stand up, hold the side, cry, and try to escape. Nothing makes a parent as nervous as noticing a playpen about to tip over.

Mom in the Playpen

So Cruzio gave away the company playpen and set up a fence around Peggy’s desk, essentially making a giant playpen with desk, chair, mom, and baby inside. Peggy often answered tech support email and calls in the makeshift playpen,  baby on her lap. Or both would work on the floor: baby finding something acceptable to chew on, Mom getting account paperwork in order.

Cruzio staff at the time — pioneers of the internet — John, Deana, and Judy, would sometimes take the baby out to local coffee shops to give the exhausted parents a chance to get a little work done. At the coffee shops more oohing and ahhing would occur. The Cruzio kids were known throughout the neighborhood before they could even walk.

The babies were sort of Cruzio’s mascots — along with the Cruzio Kitty, of course. As they grew up, all three kids were often at the office. Even during their surly teen years, the kids took advantage of the extremely fast internet Cruzio always has at our headquarters and often hung out, developing a fondness for obscure anime and child-friendly internet games like Neopets and Club Penguin.

Those Funny Things Kids Say

And in recognition of their place in the Cruzio business, at the bottom of every newsletter — despite their eye rolls — we always put quotes from the Cruzio kids. They are all grown now — the oldest is 27! — so they don’t say such silly things any more. But we kept lots of notes and we post quotes from the early years of Cruzio and the family. You’ll see an example at the bottom of this newsletter (all past newsletters are in our archive).

Running your own business is hard. Last week we described the awful racket of modems and crying babies in the little house where the family lived with multiple modems before Cruzio moved to a real office at 903 Pacific Avenue. Stage two was bringing the babies to the downtown office on the third floor. And stage three saw Cruzio hiring some wonderful staff members (looking at you, Mark!) who allowed Peggy and Chris to take a vacation after about 10 years without one.

(By the way, you can’t see her, but the third kid is in the picture: another baby was on the way.)

Saving the Planet

This week there are climate actions all over the world,  including locally.

Folks at Cruzio live and work locally — in a coastal area. Our office is near a river which flooded its banks just two years ago. We’ve watched fires take down infrastructure around our mountain facilities, and of course the fire disaster news from other parts of California serves as a warning to people in Santa Cruz County. It could happen here, too.

Cruzio has always been mindful of the environment. The internet is a way to travel by moving data, not cars.

Green Building

When Cruzio refurbished our building with our partners at Ecology Action, we followed strict environmental guidelines and achieved LEED Gold certification. We had to pay attention at every stage of construction: we reused everything we could from the previous incarnation of the building as a newspaper publishing plant. We salvaged old lumber and architectural details. When we couldn’t reuse, we put in items made from recycled materials. Or failing that, items made from natural materials like sea grass or flax seed oil. We put in openable windows so that air could naturally flow, and floor-to-ceiling interior windows so light could flow, too. The result? A work environment that’s both pleasant to look at and easy to breathe in.

Green Business

We set a goal when we opened our coworking space and started building our fiber network: 3,000 cars off the road. With fast internet, people can work from home. With great internet and a shared facility, local people — including Cruzio employees — can cowork in a professional environment without going over the hill or spending their workday under low ceilings and inefficient lights. That’s good for our lives — less stressful, less time spent commuting — and better for the planet.

And we’ve always avoided waste by sending electronic, not paper, bills. It took a while for once-ubiquitous old windowed envelopes and fax machines to go out of fashion, but many offices, like ours, use the internet to go nearly paperless.

Participating in Bigger Efforts

But let’s face it, there is much, much more that we need to do.

We use electricity. How is that generated? We were early supporters of Monterey Bay Community Power, in hopes that would spur innovation and increased use of renewable energy.

Our employees and customers often drive to downtown Santa Cruz. How can we further reduce hours on the road? We’re supporting local efforts to create more workforce housing close to businesses like ours.

And some issues are so large we barely have a voice. But we encourage everyone to stay aware and to advocate for the right thing when given the opportunity.

All this is a lead-up to the events that are happening this week. Check out the speech by teen environmentalist Greta Thunberg and consider participating in local and national actions.

Do You Want to Screw Over Your ISP?

“Internet providers are real bastards…”
So begins a recently published TechCrunch article charmingly titled 13 Ways to Screw Over Your Internet Provider

As you can imagine, since Cruzio is an internet provider, that raised an eyebrow over here and we figured we’d take a look. Wow. Amazing what some folks have to go through — it’s like they’re at war with the company who supposedly serves them!

A lot of the measures suggested by the deeply disgruntled author aren’t necessary when you have an independent, Net-Neutral ISP like Cruzio. So we thought we’d set the record straight by responding to their “advice.”

Our comments might surprise you. Or, if you’re a Cruzio customer, maybe not. Read on…

1. “Buy a modem and router instead of renting”
Sure. Unless the equipment is specifically required by the technology (for instance, with fiber connections) any Cruzio customer can feel free to buy their own and we’re totally up front about that. We don’t rent hardware to gouge our peeps. But, we’re also up front about being experts when it comes to modems. Our hardware is top-of-the-line and gives us much more ability to support the connection, and we’ll swap it out for free if it ever breaks or anytime there’s a better model available. It’s just like leasing a car over buying — but obviously much cheaper.

2. “Avoid service calls, or if you can’t, insist they’re free”
Believe us, a service call is a last resort. It’s expensive and time consuming for everyone. But, if we need to come out to fix the service, the call is always free unless the issue turns out to be with your home wiring.

3. “Get deals from the installer”
No need to try to wheedle deals from our field techs. We don’t have hidden pricing or special offers. We just have one upfront price with no hidden fees. You don’t need these tricks with us like you do with the big guys.

4. “Complain, complain, complain”
Again, not necessary. We get this a lot from new customers coming over from other ISPs. They’ve learned over time, poor things, that they need to yell and complain to get what they need. Not with Cruzio. Our whole deal is getting your service as good as we can get it. That’s our job. That’s why we’re here.

5. “Choose your service level wisely”
Cruzio has one price and for that price you get the best connection we can provide in your neighborhood. Then, as we expand and improve the network, we don’t use that as a reason to bump your price. We just upgrade everyone to the better speeds automatically and for free. We’re doing that all the time. You might get an email from us saying it’s your turn any day.

6. “Stream everything because broadcast TV is a joke”
Well this one we don’t have much to say about other than: yes, yes, 100% yes. Everything is streaming these days and we can help you set that up. #CutTheCord.

7. “Watch your bill like a hawk”
If you want to, please feel free, but there’s no need. If we ever raise our price, we’ll email you and let you know. We don’t do contracts so you can quit anytime. We don’t do hidden fees so there’s nothing for us to sneak in there.

8. “Go to your account and opt out of everything”
Nothing really to opt out of. We don’t do a bunch of add-on fees. We just try to do one thing great — internet. And we don’t want you paying for anything you don’t want.

9. “Share your passwords”
We don’t do TV so, no comment. We would never advise you to share your streaming passwords. Shocking.

10. “Encrypt everything and block trackers”
We’re all for security and we’re massive on privacy, so we don’t disagree. But we’re one of the only ISPs that do not track and sell your data. Maybe it’s a Santa Cruz thing, but we’ve never seen our customers’ data as a potential profit center. We will never give away or sell your private data. Ever.

11. “Use a different DNS”
No need. As we said, we’re not tracking you. And our DNS will be faster than any of the other options. See how there’s just less to worry about with an honest ISP?

12. “Run a home server”
There are better ways to do this. It’s a lot of trouble to set up a server and keep it going 24/7. People must hate the big ISPs! But if you want to run a server just give us a call. Let’s chat.

13. “Talk to your local government”
Yes! Please do. Local, independent ISPs like Cruzio are up against some big, deep-pocketed competitors who (see above) are not always out for your best interests. Without partnerships with local municipalities, it’ll be hard for independent ISPs to expand availability and service long term. And without us, you’re stuck with, well, them.

That was fun! I guess when you’re not out there trying to screw over your customers, you’re less likely to get screwed yourself. Huh. We knew that of course. It’s what we built Cruzio on. But it’s always good to be reminded.

Cruzio Met the Aggressive Squirrel

Emily the squirrel in a box

Emily, just prior to her notorious escape

Cruzio has a small office which happens to be next door to the grapefruit tree where a local squirrel became famous.

Emily’s Story, in a Nutshell

The squirrel was abandoned as a kitten, then raised by hand by a kindly human who named her Emily. But this July, Emily’s onset of maternity (which honestly can be overwhelming) combined with her lack of fear of humans and possibly some innate character flaw caused her to go psycho on passersby.

After several unnervingly hostile staredowns and biting incidents, people alerted the fire department to the squirrel.

The fire fighters and a brave animal rescuer removed Emily and her three small babies from the grapefruit tree. In a sad echo of her own early orphanhood, Emily then abandoned her kittens as she chewed through a plastic box and fled. It’s reported that she may have been seen, post-escape, in Live Oak. (But how can people tell it’s her, really?)

This is all documented in local and national news stories. Here’s a great video of the incident.

Cruzio’s Experience with Emily

Cruzio, being nearby, has additional exclusive information and footage of this squirrel prior to her arrest and escape.

We had noticed an odd squirrel in the maple tree outside our office, just about 30 feet from the site of her eventual capture.

In early spring, we saw the squirrel chewing on something strange. Not a nut. Not a scrap of food. On closer examination, it turned out to be a cigarette lighter.

Emily, the video

Emily, spotted near her grapefruit tree a few months before the famous incident

Okay, that’s weird. Another day, we went outside and noticed our 3-foot-high avocado plant had been ripped out of its planter. The foliage had been torn off and thrown several feet away and the pit from which it rooted was chittered into hundreds of pieces strewn around our porch — as if a tiny wood chipper had gone at it.

At first we thought it was a human vandal but who would chip an avocado pit into literally hundreds of small pieces? Not a human and not even a normal squirrel.

A squirrel who’d gone bananas, that’s who.

Later, when the squirrel hostilely stared down passersby and even bit several people, the word was that she was just protecting her babies. That may be so. But in our experience, she was already pretty nutty.

Takeaways:

  • Squirrels are wild animals. Changing their ways can be hazardous.
  • Also, don’t feed squirrels. One of the attacks happened when a young man tried to feed Emily a potato chip.
  • Don’t leave your young avocado plants outside…

Squirrels Were Once Beloved Pets

Colonial girl with squirrel

To be fair to squirrels, humans often have a hand in their weird behavior. Let’s go over some of their history in the USA.

Colonial Squirrels: Beloved Pets

Colonial Americans lived among many wild animals and tamed both deer and squirrels for pets. Even Ben Franklin, living in England just prior to the Revolutionary War, felt he could best show his gratitude to his host family by having his wife ship some American grey squirrels to them as pets. The squirrels were a hit. One of them was particularly beloved, and when it was killed by a dog in 1772 Franklin wrote a sad ode in its honor.

“…Daily wert thou fed with the choicest Viands
By the fair Hand
Of an indulgent Mistress.
But, discontented, thou wouldst have more freedom.
Too soon, alas! didst thou obtain it…”

Tame squirrel enthusiasm waned, however, as sharp claws and teeth, plus a tendency to steal food and bury it all over the house, revealed squirrels as less than desirable pets.

And don’t get any ideas. Today, it’s illegal to have a squirrel as a pet in the State of California.

Squirrels and Technology: a Bad Combination

Cruzio has another objection to squirrels: they like to chew on fiberoptic cables. Their teeth grow rapidly and they must chew to keep the teeth short and sharp. As bad as landslides and storms are for telecommunications infrastructure, squirrels give those trials a run for their money. Squirrels have gnawed outage-causing cuts into fiber cables in Santa Cruz several times in the last decade. It’s one reason that Cruzio has to have doubly- and triply-redundant connections.

(Other animals, like rabbits and rats, also chew. Why do communications companies focus on squirrels? Because they climb utility poles, so cables hung on poles are susceptible. That’s one reason Cruzio likes to build underground when we can!)

Remember Noisy Modems? Imagine a House Full of ‘Em

Chris and baby Jake

Chris and Jake in 1993, when modems filled the family garage.

More Memories from our 30-year History

In the late 1980s and 1990s, when Cruzio’s founders started offering dial-up connections, people connected to us over phone lines.

It seems primitive today, and jury-rigged. It was! We were using the tools available to us — and luckily the breakup of Ma Bell had freed people to use the infrastructure as we pleased. Fax machines, voice mail, and the internet resulted.

(Telecom monopolies have been reassembling in the 2000s, like some sort of Death Star, but that’s another topic…)

Sharing a phone line with the internet was kind of a drag, because when you connected to the internet you couldn’t make a phone call on the same line. And people used to use their landline telephones a lot more, since many didn’t have the internet and nobody had smart phones.

Lots of problems ensued, mostly intergenerational: older people got furious because the phone was busy for hours and hours while a kid in the house was playing a multiuser game on the computer. Even then, the internet was a huge time suck.

What if You Were the ISP?

In the Cruzio family household, founders Chris and Peggy had it worse than most because their house was the site of several modem servers which made loud modem noises all day and night. Every time a customer connected to Cruzio, the servers would screech and crackle. The equipment was in the attached garage but could be heard throughout most of their small house.

Boing, boing, boing. Crrrrrrr. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Add to this the alarms Chris set to go off whenever equipment faltered. Loud shrieks rang through the little house, waking everyone in the family as Chris valiantly rushed to repair whatever had gone wrong.

Cruzio’s founders knew from the start that the internet is a 24/7 responsibility 365 days a year. People rely on it. And when you host it in your house, you’re going to notice it. All night long.

Things got even worse after the Cruzio babies were born. Any problem with the internet service was immediately followed by a cascade of sound effects: the alarm shrieking, Mom and Dad yelling expletives, babies wailing.

That’s how you ran a startup ISP in 1992.

It’s Different Now

Luckily, Cruzio — maybe because of the valiant efforts — attracted enough customers to become a real business. When Cruzio moved to a downtown office building in 1994, great joy, and much more sleep, ensued.

And our world in 2019 — with its wifi and blue tooth, phones that play movies and fit in our pockets — looks very different now. The babies are grown up. But Cruzio still answers alarms any time there’s a problem with our internet service, any time of day or night.

Cruzio Jingle Contest

$1,500+ in prizes! Live performance! Internet Fame!

Can you believe Cruzio has been around for 30 years and made it this far without a catchy jingle!? Neither can we!

That’s why, for our 30-year anniversary party, we are holding a jingle competition and we’re seeking submissions. If you’re musically inclined (or just musically aspirational) we want to hear what you can create for us!

Presentation:
Finalists will perform their jingle at our annual Open House Extravaganza (OHE) in November. It’s due to be an enormous party as it’s our big 3-0. We encourage costumes, dancing, and dramatic performances to accompany the jingle presentation. If contestants aren’t available to perform at the OHE, we will play video or audio recordings.

Prizes:
The winner of the competition will be awarded $1,500 and a free year of 9-5, M-F coworking membership (or one year of free internet on our Wireless Pro service). The winner will also receive 2 free passes to the 2020 Santa Cruz Music Festival, as well as the opportunity to have an interview with Santa Cruz Work’s Matthew Swinnerton on the Think Local First Radio Show. More announcements on prizes to be announced! Everyone who makes it to the finals and performs at OHE will win something!

Along with prizes, we will make a big deal out of your songs, whether you win or not. Cruzio will look for opportunities to promote contestants and play their submissions. Everyone who enters the competition and attends OHE, even if they didn’t make it to the finals, will get a prize at the door!

Qualifications:
•Write an original jingle for Cruzio

•Must be at least 15 seconds long

•Must use “Cruzio” or “Cruzio Internet” in the lyrics, if there are lyrics. Instrumentals are also acceptable but we may add lyrics later

•We’ll give extra consideration to entries that include the words: internet, fiber, fiber-optics, home or business, friendly, fast, local, net neutral, privacy, or other positive attributes of Cruzio

•Extra consideration also is given to contestants who perform on November 1, 2019, at Cruzio headquarters in downtown Santa Cruz. In-person performance is preferred, but video or audio files are also acceptable

•There must be a family-friendly version available

•There are no age requirements, we’ll listen to your jingle if you’re 5 years old or 95 years old

How to make your submission:
Upload your jingle to Google Drive and share it with JingleContest@cruzio.com. The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2019. We’ll review your submission internally and announce our finalists on October 15th, 2019.

If you need help uploading and sharing your file, here is a link to Google’s support page.

Format:
We will accept video or audio files: mp3, mp4, wav

Good luck and happy jingle crafting! We can’t wait to see what you create!

-The Folks at Cruzio

By submitting your jingle to the competition, you have agreed to the following terms and conditions:

•Sponsor’s Rights to Entries: You do not transfer ownership of your entry by entering the Contest. However, by entering, you grant to The Internet Store, Inc dba Cruzio (“Sponsor”), its agents, licensees, and assigns an irrevocable, perpetual (non-exclusive) right and permission to reproduce, encode, store, copy, transmit, publish, post, broadcast, display, publicly perform, adapt, modify, create derivative works of, exhibit, and otherwise use your entry as-is or as-edited (with or without using your name) in any media throughout the world for any purpose, without limitation, and without additional review, compensation, or approval from you.

•Winners will be notified by email and must sign and return an affidavit of eligibility/recording rights/publicity release within 14 days of notification date. The affidavit will state that the winner’s song is original work and he/she holds all rights to song. Failure to sign and return such affidavit within 14 days or provision of false/inaccurate information therein will result in immediate disqualification and an alternate winner will be selected. Affidavits for winners under 18 years of age at time of award must be countersigned by a parent or legal guardian. Affidavits subject to verification by The Internet Store Inc. and its agents. Entry constitutes permission to use winner’s names, likenesses, and voices for future advertising and publicity purposes without additional compensation.

•All songs, music and lyrics must be original compositions and be credited solely as the work of the creator listed in the entry form. Entries in violation of any copyright laws, trademarks, intellectual property rights or basic ethical standards of amateur or professional songwriting will be disqualified immediately and without notice. In all cases, The Internet Store, Inc. shall in no way be held liable for any such legal action that results from the submission of unlawful or stolen submissions.

•A selection of finalists will be chosen to perform in the live performance finals of the Cruzio Jingle Competition at the 30th Anniversary Open House Extravaganza, November 1st at Cruzio’s downtown headquarters. Finalists will be required to confirm their performance at the Open House party no later than 10/20/19

•The finalists will be selected from their video or audio submissions by a panel of judges.

Berdels & Santa Cruz Fiber

Berdels is a relatively new, but well recognized and widely known local surf and skate apparel shop in downtown Santa Cruz. They work with artists local to California and especially local to the Santa Cruz area to supply the store with unique finds and stay true the beach culture we all know Santa Cruz so well for.

Back in winter, we connected Berdels to our lightning-fast, fiber-optic network and they noticed the change in speeds! We talked to Berdels founder, Bubb Rader, who became the star of our latest video. Here’s Bubb himself on how fiber and Cruzio Internet have been helpful for his day to day transactions and interactions with customers, and the value of local businesses working with fellow local businesses:

“Your daily life is just so tied up here…. The community and the support that we get from everyone and the support that we try to give back by taking risks on locals …. To have it be so good is so rewarding.”

Santa Cruz Fiber is helping local business owners in downtown do what they do best – seamlessly run their business! Without any hiccups, lagging, or arbitrary data caps, our fiber network is helping sales run smoothly and add a whole new, relaxed meaning to “business as usual”.

Learn more about Santa Cruz Fiber, all of its benefits, and how our services and awesome local customer support can help your business here.