Our Very Own Tech Titans

James Hackett and Chris Frost, builders of internet

James Hackett and Chris Frost, Titans of Tech

Chris Frost and James Hackett are building internet to underserved areas of Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, and San Mateo Counties. And they won an award for it!

On March 2nd, in a chilly but thrilling outdoor event, our very own James Hackett and Chris Frost were lauded as “Titans of Tech” by Santa Cruz Works.

Frost and James well deserve their awards. Other local tech companies sell software or apps nationwide, which is impressive, but Cruzio allows people in our own community to create and use those apps and that software. We help people participate in the 21st century world of tech.

But we have to compete with some of the biggest corporations in the country. Staying competitive means we’ve had to build a whole new communications network, one that’s locally owned and operated specifically for local residents and businesses. Because so many people need better internet, we’ve extended from Santa Cruz County to reach further up the coast, to San Mateo County, and further south, to parts of Monterey and San Benito counties.

Building stuff is what we do. We set our goals high, and we accomplish our work quickly and efficiently. Frost and James are the leaders of our efforts and they do a remarkable job managing and guiding construction, even during a pandemic.

And then there’s our Equal Access initiative.

We’re not just building out a huge independent telecommunications network— which started from scratch in 2009 — we’re also helping low income people up and down the Central Coast access work, school, and social services over the internet. James and Frost have been dynamic leaders leaders in that important effort, too.

It can be very complicated to bring together all the resources needed to get internet to these difficult-to-serve areas. Frost and James have been able to forge important relationships so that projects move smoothly through their many stages. We are lucky to have partners such as Susan True from Santa Cruz Community Foundation and Jason Borgen from the County Office of Education. They are remarkable leaders who deserve awards as well.

Providing service to people who need it is our mission. And since everyone needs good internet, and needs increasingly more and better internet, we have a lot to do. We are lucky to have a tremendous staff and smart, compassionate leaders to get us there.

And no, James and Frost are not opening an In-N-Out burger. That was an April Fools joke. If an In-N-Out does open, we’ll happily provide it with internet.

And lastly, much admiration for Matthew Swinnerton, an event-planning madman and local icon, who allowed himself to be doused with 5 buckets of ice — we mentioned it was a chilly night that night, right? — at the event. Video here.

Cruzio Wins Grants to Build Internet

San Jerardo migrant farmworker community gets broadband connections
You may have heard the Cruzio Internet recently won grants to build high-speed broadband to low income communities in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.
This is the result of a determined, long-term effort by Cruzio and our partners — educators and philanthropists — to get internet where it’s most needed.

Funding for internet infrastructure has been lacking for many years

Solving the digital divide is complicated. You can’t deliver internet without a physical network, which is expensive and time-consuming to build. Parts of Cruzio’s service area are rural or low income, and free market forces just haven’t compelled construction to those places.

Several years ago, Cruzio turned our frustration with the digital divide into energy towards a solution. We set up our Equal Access program to build long-needed infrastructure.

We looked at public funding for internet, But till now, government programs promising better internet have generally been waylaid by big corporate ISPs. The programs just dumped money into existing networks (cough! shareholders’s pockets), perhaps helping to pay a family’s bills in the short term but doing nothing to improve available connectivity.

To the contrary: often, public funds helped sustain the status quo, not improve it.

The digital gap was widening

Due to a lack of investment, large parts of our region have been limited to infrastructure that can only carry 6 megabits per second, while cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where there’s a lot of competition from independent ISPs, often have access to gigabit or even multi-gigabit connections. That means an urban internet user in a prosperous neighborhood often has access to a connection that is dozens of times better than a low-income or rural user. Sometimes over a hundred times better. And the divide is growing.

Cruzio looked for a way to actually build to unserved areas, and what we could not find in public funding we found in community partnerships.

Local philanthropists stepped in

Because schoolchildren are one of the most important groups to be served by internet — they need it to keep up with classwork — from the beginning we found common ground with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and other educators around our service area. Together we worked on establishing better internet opportunities for low income families.

We applied for grants, but at first there wasn’t much money available. We’re lucky that our local community took notice. The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County connected us to needed funds. Private donations from Driscolls, the Watsonville Rotary, and some anonymous contributors joined our own contributions to put hundreds of families online, and will for years to come.

Cruzio members, always the best sorts of people in our unbiased opinion, have also been contributing. We love it when you pay a little extra on your monthly bill as a donation. Here’s how to sign up to support internet for a student who needs it.

Lately, government funding has become available

Private donations were, and will always be, vital to support internet equity. But finally, government money is available and our Equal Access program, already in full swing, has been able to win two grants — one from Santa Cruz County and one from Monterey County.

Because we are experienced network builders and know our area so well, we were able to present compelling proposals for fast, economical improvements in internet availability. And we’re quickly fulfilling our promises.. The ink was barely dry on the Santa Cruz County grant when we set up the first three new hubs in the Watsonville area. Four more are in the works right now, in Live Oak. And we are surveying for more in other parts of the county. People really need better internet right now, so we will use up the funds very quickly!

Cruzio’s putting all those funds to work

We’re working right now on four sites in northern Monterey County which should be operational this summer.  Each site serves dozens of buildings, sometimes translating to hundreds of people. As in Santa Cruz, all those folks will have access to our standard quality internet (which is quite good internet) at $15/mo.

Many thanks to Santa Cruz County Supervisors Koenig, Coonerty, Friend, and McPherson, and to the Monterey County IT Department — especially Alex Zheng and Eric Chatham — and Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, thanks Freny Cooper! We’ll do you all proud.

More details about this project in this Santa Cruz Local article.

Equal Access & Pajaro Valley Shelter Services

Maria Sotelo’s daughters pictured here: Left: Yuriana 8th grade; Right: Jacqueline 12th grade. Jacqueline is planning to attend Cabrillo College after high school graduation to become a dental hygienist. “Ever since the pandemic hit, my daughters have been asked to do most of their schoolwork on their computers. Having internet access has made it so convenient for my kids to complete their homework at home.” -Maria Sotelo.

In January of this year, Cruzio Internet and Pajaro Valley Shelter Services (PVSS) partnered to bring internet connections to local families transitioning out of homelessness. This is the latest community partnership and infrastructure project funded by Equal Access Santa Cruz County, an initiative to close the digital divide in our region.

Pajaro Valley Shelter Services is a non-profit with a mission to help families experiencing homelessness transition into self-sufficiency and stable housing. At any given time, PVSS has up to 130 individuals – children and adults – residing in its shelter and housing programs and serves over 215 individuals annually. Homelessness is an issue pervasive in Santa Cruz County. As of the last count in 2019, there were over 2,000 estimated homeless individuals in the County, and that number has only seemed to increase since then. The pandemic was of no help. PVSS reports that the pandemic disproportionately impacted the predominantly Latinx, extremely low-income families that PVSS serves. In April 2020, a month into the pandemic, 57% of PVSS families lost their employment due to shutdowns and business slowdowns.

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Coastside Net and Cruzio Join Forces

San Mateo and Santa Cruz County ISPs merge

Santa Cruz and San Mateo have a lot in common. We’ve both got great lighthouses, for one

Big News!

The very big news is that Cruzio has merged with our neighbor ISP just to the north — Coastside Net. Welcome Coastside subscribers! We know you’ll like working with our friendly staff, and we’re happy to have the chance to serve you.

We Both Started Early

Here’s a little history. Like Cruzio, Coastside started up in the early dot-com wildcat era when people wanted to get everything from library card catalogues to psychic readings onto the internet as fast as possible. Thousands of internet providers sprang up to fill the demand. Every hobbyist gave it a shot. Even David Bowie had his own ISP!

Not long after, in 1999-2000, the dot-com boom ended. The overinflated industry was brought down to earth. Although the need for the internet didn’t disappear — My Space and other social media was lurking on the horizon, after all — small ISPs were mostly muscled out by big corporations who’d suddenly taken an interest when it looked as though a profit could be made.

Coastside Net, like Cruzio, was one of the independents that survived — against odds — to maintain the early culture of the internet: creative, clever, Net Neutral, respectful of privacy.  And we both ran our businesses in a friendly, human way.

Indies Make the Internet Better for Consumers

Competing against some of the largest — and most disliked — companies in the country isn’t easy, and independent ISPs do it every day.

“Local, independent ISPs not only provide competition, helping keep prices down and improve service quality,” said James Hackett, Cruzio’s long-time Director of Business Operations, “we’re also more nimble and imaginative with our solutions, and we’re far more connected with our communities than those big corporate giants.”

Smaller companies also do better when working together, sharing tips with other independents around the country. Cruzio’s Director of Technology and INfrastructure, Chris Frost, has served for years as President of FISPA, the national association of independent ISPs (it’s Federated ISP Association, if you want to decode the acronym). He got the gig because he’s always bringing people together to make technology work.

We’ve Been Buddies for a Long Time

Cruzio is friendly with lots of ISPs. But our very favorite ISP has been Coastside Net, and not just because the drive up Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay is world-class gorgeous. Over the years Coastside Net and Cruzio developed a close relationship, even loaning each other equipment to help out when needed. Both companies stand up during fire season, helping mountain lookouts stay connected. We support the ham community, who keep emergency radio communications up and running and with whom it’s fun to geek out.

And We’re Both Builders

There’s a lot of network out there that needs to be built, and we want to get to it. Cruzio and Coastside Net are both experienced with construction of fiber optic and fixed wireless networks. These technologies can deliver a lot of internet — more all the time.

In 2020 Cruzio launched Equal Access, a program designed to address issues of digital equity in our region. Since then we’ve connected over 700 families to free or very low-cost internet. We’re ready to do the same in neighboring counties. Coastside Net, just to our north, shared our priorities.

So we Tied the Knot

As we talked about it, it made sense for Cruzio and Coastside Net to take the next step and merge our companies. At the end of 2021, that’s just what we did.

“We’ve worked closely with Cruzio for years so when the opportunity arose to join forces, we could all see what great sense it made”, said Coastside Net CEO, Rob Genovesi. “I couldn’t be more excited for the future and the great things we can accomplish together.”

The Coastside community responded to the announcement with congratulations and enthusiastic encouragement. They have a lot in common with Cruzio members. They’re just the best.

And we welcome Rob and Steve to the Cruzio team! They are smart, experienced, and fun to work with. We think you’ll enjoy meeting them and you’ll see us continue to make progress towards our goal: good quality, reasonably priced internet for all.

More questions? Check out our FAQ on the merger.

An Exciting Year at Cruzio in 2021

Happy New Year from Cruzio! We’re so optimistic for this next year and have so much exciting news to share with you. But first, a recap of 2021:

2021 garners some mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was a huge improvement from the absolute panic that was 2020, but it was also a year-long period of limbo and uncertainty. This year, we’re still waiting to see how the latest variant plays out with some skeptical optimism for the worst to be over soon. While last year might not have brought the peace of mind we’d hoped for, it did bring unimaginable progress that will carry us through this year.

We kept coworking going
Coworking is one among many industries to take a hard hit during the pandemic. We have such a beautiful space and community here at Cruzioworks and it was necessary but challenging to witness that put on indefinite hold during the height of the pandemic. It’s a rocky road before we’re back in full swing but in the meantime, we’re here for our members and looking forward to growing our community in 2022. A number of dedicated Cruzioworks members and our stellar Works team kept the coworking spirit alive. We owe a special thanks to our team at the Front Desk, Alex, Carlos, and Pily, for keeping all the plates spinning and keeping up with complicated, ever-changing mandates and guidelines. It’s a huge job being responsible for keeping everyone safe while maintaining an accommodating workspace, and this team really did an incredible job at balancing all of that!

Cruzio Internet headquarters

We grew our local and independent network and continued to push for Equal Access
We’re always growing our network and expanding to reach more residents and businesses in Santa Cruz County. This year was one of our biggest years for expansion yet. We’ve increased our overall coverage with 38 new points of network distribution and over 700 new wireless and fiber connections. We made considerable progress in covering more of Scotts Valley – a particularly tricky area to serve with so many trees and mountains. We also brought infrastructure to Watsonville and brought on more customers in the Parajo and Watsonville areas this year than ever before in the history of our network.

Another part of our work that has added importance in the pandemic is the Equal Access Santa Cruz initiative, a partnership between Cruzio, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, the County Office of Education, school districts and multiple local organizations. Equal Access kicked off in 2020 at the height of the pandemic when students schooled exclusively from home, leaving many families to burden a compounding crisis between the pandemic, and their children’s education.

This year, Equal Access Santa Cruz raised almost $2,000,000 and we’ve been able to build out new infrastructure to reach an additional 2,000 students who are now eligible for internet access. The funding from community donations, business partnerships, and government awarded grant money made it possible to bring internet to those most in need and in areas long neglected for necessary broadband infrastructure upgrades.

Thanks to Equal Access Santa Cruz, we grew our coverage in Watsonville by over 30% in areas that hadn’t previously had adequate infrastructure.

We brought internet to Buena Vista and Tierra Alta labor housing
Our biggest project this year through Equal Access Santa Cruz was at the Buena Vista and Tierra Alta labor housing in Pajaro Valley in March. The complex has 143 units and houses about 150 of students who previously had no reliable or affordable connection to the internet even as they tried to school throughout the pandemic. Thanks to Equal Access funding, our partnership with the school districts and housing authority, and our infrastructure planning, we were able to connect the entire complex with direct lines to each unit in record time. We dedicated two of our teams to be out there every day for the month of March so that when families returned to the camp in April, their children would be able to participate in their classes. It was a huge success that has become a blueprint for our projects moving forward, as well as one that we are sharing with other small ISPs looking to make a difference in their communities.

We brought internet to Farm Discovery
In April we brought internet to Farm Discovery at Live Earth Farm, also located in Parajo Valley. This was a smaller build but no build is too small to need internet service, especially if you’re a remote community in the Pajaro Valley hills. Bringing internet to Farm Discovery meant they could continue their schooling program which helped working parents find a safe space to leave their kids during the day where they could participate in school. Thanks to a donation from Driscolls, we hooked up the Farm as well as used it as a crucial distribution point for the small community surrounding it which previously had only limited and expensive options available for broadband.

We’re excited about what Equal Access has in store for 2022 and we think you’ll be too
Equal access Santa Cruz will be bringing better internet to the Live Oak area in the first half of this year. We’re working with the school districts to grow our coverage in the area, which, despite being in-town and densely populated, doesn’t have many reliable and affordable options. Additionally, this is an area that stands out to us because there are many low-income families in the school district who are the most vulnerable to internet access inequity. Our initial plans aim to add 4 new sites with 400-800 available new connections.

Equal Access is also growing beyond Santa Cruz and we’ve taken the model to Monterey County. Cruzio Internet has been awarded a grant to build infrastructure to the San Jerardo housing co-op in Salinas. Once complete, this project will bring internet directly to the units of 250 permanent residents and 100 seasonal residents. The co-op is a low-income farmworker community and this will make a meaningful difference in their day-to-day lives and access to resources.

We’re continuing to support local business in 2022
It’s a big year ahead for restoring local business and so we’re dedicated to supporting that effort in the new year. We’ve partnered with the City’s Economic Development Board to help with their Downtown Pops program. Participating Pop-Up shops will have internet connections free of charge for the duration of the program. We’ll also be rolling out a promotion for new business signups this Spring.

And some very exciting news
Finally, we have a very exciting announcement about our growth into San Mateo County! More on that story very soon!

It’s been an exciting year and we’re nothing but excited for 2022. Thank you to everyone on our network – whether you’ve been here with us since ’89 or you’re a brand new customer – for your continued support of local and independent internet. Here’s to 2022 and a great year for all of us!

Coastside.Net and Cruzio have joined forces

San Mateo and Santa Cruz County ISPs merge

Santa Cruz and San Mateo have a lot in common. We’ve both got great lighthouses, for one

We’re delighted to announce that Cruzio Internet and Coastside.Net are joining forces. Because we’re such similar companies, and we’ve been friendly for so many years (decades!), this should be an easy and beneficial merger.

Most important things first: if you’re looking to login to your Coastside.net email login here.

Below we’ll try to answer your basic questions about the merger. If you have any questions about this or about your services or account, reach out anytime at Cruzio.com/contact.

Who is Cruzio?
Cruzio is one of the oldest independent ISPs in the country and in recent years we’ve grown our wireless and fiber service footprint significantly. As we’ve expanded, we’ve worked with community partners to include low-income families through our Equal Access initiative, which we hope to expand in San Mateo County.

OK, who’s Coastside.Net?
Coastside.net is San Mateo’s largest independent ISP. They cover large areas of Half Moon Bay, El Granada, Pescadero and La Honda, and all the way into Palo Alto and Redwood City. They offer similar services to Cruzio and have been around for almost as long.

I’m a Coastside customer, what’s this mean to me?
First of all, nothing will immediately change. You’ll still keep getting a bill from Coastside and enjoying the same great service. If you need customer service, just contact Coastside as usual. Over the next weeks and months we’ll be combining our operations and you’ll start getting billing statements and support from Cruzio. As we combine our resources, we’ll have more ability to support you, and we’ll also be strengthening the network, and even rolling new services in the Coastside footprint.

How do I contact Cruzio if I need support?
All our contact info is available at cruzio.com/contact. You can call us at 831.459.6301 or toll-free at (800) 303-3302, or swing by and see us sometime at 877 Cedar St #150, Santa Cruz CA.

I was a Skyline wireless customer, what’s this mean for me?
The Skyline wireless network is now part of the Cruzio network. We’ll be working with the Coastside team (including Bill, the founder of Skyline) to make sure the Skyline network is better-maintained than ever and we’re offering the best possible service and speeds.

Will you be keeping an office in the Half Moon Bay area?
We have no immediate plans to move from the current offices at 525-B Obispo Rd in El Granada. As the months pass, we’ll be looking at our office and warehouse space needs.

What about my Coastside email address and/or website?
No change. Your Coastside.net email address will continue to function as before. Coastside-hosted websites will continue to operate in the same way.

What’s happening to Rob and Steve?
They’re still on board! They’re joining the Cruzio team and will continue to be integral parts of daily operation, supporting all our customers and helping build a better and bigger network.

What does this mean for me as a Cruzio customer?
Nothing immediately. But by joining forces with Coastside, Cruzio is now significantly better equipped to grow, build better products, and support and maintain our local, independent network. The future is bright indeed.

For real? That’s a big expansion of Cruzio’s coverage (I hear you’re going to Monterey too?). Are you sure you can maintain service quality?
A big part of why we joined up with Coastside is to bring on the skills and experience of a talented team. Rob and Steve have years of experience running a network and by adding them to Cruzio’s team we dramatically increase our abilities to serve our community. We’re also hiring new techs and expanding all the time. If you’re interested in joining our team go to https://cruzio.com/careers/

I’m looking the Cruzio website, seems like you offer some higher speeds — can I upgrade my connection?
We’re bringing higher overall broadband capacity to the Coastside network right away and will be looking at where we can offer faster speeds very soon. If you want to register interest, go to faster.cruzio.com and fill out an inquiry. We’ll get back to you as soon as we have news.

Coastside.Net is Now Part of Cruzio

Hello Everyone,

I have some very exciting news to share with you all … Coastside.Net is now part of the Cruzio Internet family!

I am proud to say this is not the end of Coastside.Net, rather the next chapter in our evolution of doing what we love: providing quality internet in today’s fast-paced digital age with personal, friendly service and support. This next chapter is the merging of like-minded people to do bigger and better things.

Steve Dennis and myself will continue to be integral parts of daily operation and always available to support you. We wish Jeff the best on his retirement, and to Austin with his continued studies at CSU Chico. We are blessed to have the continued advice and support of Bill Prince and Georgia Stigall, who did the heavy lifting to make Skyline Broadband a reality.

I am excited to join forces with the awesome folks at Cruzio. Like Coastside.Net, Cruzio’s roots date back to the dawn of the internet. And, like Coastside.Net, Cruzio is independently owned and committed to being a valued partner in the community.

On behalf of myself, my family and all Coastside.Net staff (past and present), I want to thank you for your patronage and support over the years. We look forward to being part of the bright future of Cruzio and continuing to bring you the high level of service and support that you deserve.

Robert Genovesi

Cruzio to Bring Internet Service to San Jerardo Housing Cooperative

Entrance to San Jerardo Cooperative

Equal Access Santa Cruz is taking its model for closing the digital divide through community partnership and community engagement to new areas of need. Equal Access Monterey Bay is a new partnership between Cruzio Internet, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, the Central Coast Broadband Consortium. Its first project is to bring reliable wireless internet to the San Jerardo housing cooperative located just outside of Salinas.

Thanks to a grant from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Cruzio Internet has been awarded $292,548 to build the infrastructure needed to connect every home in the cooperative. Equal Access Monterey Bay hopes to raise another $200,000 to provide the service completely free to residents for the next 5 years.

The San Jerardo housing cooperative was built by farmworkers in the 1970s. The site was an abandoned labor barracks, which the farmworker families first used as a squatting camp then purchased and transformed.

These families and workers face innumerable challenges. Many members of the community are low income and recently the situation has been even harder as the co-op has faced great difficulties and increased costs related to their water supply. Like many low-income and rural communities across the nation, they also struggle with access to an important resource: a reliable and affordable internet connection.

Addressing the need for real, affordable broadband at San Jerardo would be of immense value to the San Jerardo Cooperative residents who, like the farmworker community as a whole, are struggling.

According to the LA Times, “farmworkers in the state earn about $30,000 a year if they work full time — about half the overall average pay in California. Most work fewer hours.” In fact, the most recent U.S. Department of Labor National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), the average total income of farmworkers is between $15,000 – $17,499 a year for individuals and $20,000 – $24,999 for a family, far below the median income in Monterey County which was $71,015 in 2019.

General manager Horacio Amezquita’s family members are original co-op members and he is intimately familiar with the challenges the community faces.

“The community of San Jerardo is a farmworkers housing Cooperative that needs affordable and reliable internet access. Students here do not have a reliable internet connection and are not able to stay connected in their school classes. Many families in the community can not afford to pay for a reliable internet service. Communities like San Jerardo need to have affordable and reliable internet access for the well-being of present and future generations.”
— Horacio Amezquita, General Manager, San Jerardo Cooperative

Horacio Amezquita, General Manager, San Jerardo

In October our team made a trip out to San Jerardo to survey the site and start making plans for the infrastructure build. Once complete, this project will bring internet directly to the units of 250 permanent residents and 100 seasonal residents, making a huge difference in their day-to-day lives and access to resources.

To help support this project go to Community Foundation for Monterey County.