Category Archives: Cruzio Blog

Cruzio Newsletter #212

Cruzio Newsletter, Number 212, July 28th, 2022


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Oh the Places We Go!

From Half Moon Bay in the north to Monterey in the south, from the Pacific Coast into the mountains, Cruzio’s been sending our techs out to connect people to high-speed internet.

Because our wireless services depend on line-of sight, we’ re often up high where the view is spectacular. We take photos for technical reasons — to help locate a connection between sites.  In some of these photos you can see we’re in a rural area but trying to get a peek at a town or a mountaintop facility so we can make that connection.  When taking work-related pictures we also get some shots of the countryside. And wow, we live in a beautiful place!

When we’re in a gorgeous spot,  we take a gorgeous picture. Here are views from our service area as photographed by some of our tech staff:

Pescadero farm

Photo by Antonio

 

City at night

Photo by Alison

 

View of the Pacific

Photo by Antonio

 

Mount Umunhum

Photo by Alison

 

Winery

Photo by Rob

 

Sunset over Santa Cruz, complete with palm trees

Photo by Alison

Santa Cruz Wharf

Photo by Bishop

 

Magnolia flower

Photo by Luis

 

View from Mountains

Photo by Bishop

Santa Cruz Wharf

Photo by Sonya

 

 

Mountains

Photo by Cameron

 

california poppies by the road

Photo by Alison

 

Mountain view

Photo by Alison

 

Ocean View of Half Moon Bay

Photo by Alison

Keep an Extra Eye Out for Scammers

internet security logo

Whenever there’s a crisis — like the current war in Ukraine — spammers and scammers take advantage. You may receive extra email or calls soliciting donations, or you may find a higher amount of more convincing phishing email.

We’re even being warned, in a very general way, about possible hacking by Russia. Earlier this month the FBI announced it had prevented a massive hacking project on American routers and firewall devices by the Russian military. Many forms of computer hacking and interruption depend on large networks of virus-infected computers (“botnets”), whose owners don’t know their machines are carrying out nefarious tasks. That can affect home and office computer equipment.

Internet security experts around the country are urging extra caution.

Our users and community are not likely to be the specific target of any particular scheme, but large sweeps looking for access to private and small business computers can sometimes catch unsuspecting people.

Resist hacking! Some principles to remember:

  • The more urgent it seems, the more likely it is to be a scam
  • Don’t submit personal information and passwords to forms you’re directed to in unexpected email or texts, even if the sender seems familiar
  • Directly contact whoever supposedly wrote the email (bank, relative who’s apparently in trouble, technical service) directly if you have any doubts. Don’t just answer the email or stay on the phone, use an independent way of reaching them
  • Check whether you have compromised accounts or passwords by visiting haveibeenpwned.com
  • If your personal data has been compromised, or just every so often for the heck of it, change your passwords. Use different, unusual passwords for sites where security is most important (like a bank)

If you have one of those moments when you suspect you’ve fallen for an internet scheme, don’t panic. You’ll need to change your passwords right away. Feel free to contact Cruzio to ask for advice.

Note from Cruzio’s CEO

Kitten at the laptopWhat area does Cruzio serve? Well, that’s changing. Our footprint is getting bigger.

Cruzio recently merged with neighboring best-buddy ISP Coastside Net. Coastside is based in San Mateo County, and Cruzio realized we’re not hyperlocal anymore.

Now we’re regional. But what’s our region called?

Our marketing staff have puzzled over this change. We used to say, “Santa Cruz County” in front of everything we did.

And we loved highlighting Santa Cruz County, although it’s a bit difficult having a city (Santa Cruz) and a county (Santa Cruz) with the same name. That’s challenging for advertising because people tended to think we provided internet just in the City. They didn’t realize Cruzio reaches a lot of odd places where you wouldn’t expect great internet to be.

We get around.

Now we’ve got even more territory to name. We all have a lot in common. The stretch of mountains-to-sea running from Pacifica all the way down and around Monterey Bay is an area of great natural beauty dotted with charming towns. Yes, if you are reading this, you likely live in a charming town. Or at least near one.

In the springtime we’ve got fields of brilliant yellow cowslips and starry purple ice plants. Cedars give way to scrub oaks give way to towering redwood trees, each with a distinct color, shape, and smell. Seals or sea lions nap at our beaches — some beaches even host elephant seals.

We surf. We sail. We bicycle. Our roads zigzag up into the mountains, our farms draw straight furrows below, and some of us may work in Silicon Valley but we’re much happier when we’re home.

We have common struggles, too. It’s hard to find housing. It takes way too long to get from one place to another on our crowded highways. We worry about fire in one season and flood in another. A lot of us struggle with the cost of living in such a beautiful place. We’re often far from needed services, especially during crises like fires or heavy storms.

As a region, we have a lot of decisions we need to make, and we do better when working together. More reliable internet reaching more places should help us.

So what’s the name of our new service area? We’re cogitating on that, but we don’t know yet. If you have any suggestions, send them in! Meanwhile Cruzio will continue to connect people from all around our unnamed region with the best internet possible, because we live here, too.

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.