We all make mistakes, and no one is perfect, even our normally steadfast local paper. However, the Sentinel missed the mark in their recent article lamenting the loss of a deal between Cruzio and the City of Santa Cruz to build a city-wide fiber network. Not only is the Santa Cruz Fiber project not “dead” as the article incorrectly stated, this week City Council approved two measures that will greatly improve the project’s chances of success.
First, one thing the article did get right: Cruzio is already building the first “fiberhood” serving businesses and residences in downtown Santa Cruz. This is the first phase of the much larger network providing low-cost fiber internet service to all City residents.
This week city council also approved a plan that will connect City-owned facilities with fiber — an excellent idea and one we’ve urged the City to develop for years. Since both the City and Cruzio are now building fiber, we can leverage each other’s investment and coverage capacity to do more at a lower cost.
City council also approved a “dig once” policy which means anytime someone needs to open up the street to do construction, other interested parties are given the opportunity to join the project, saving money and minimizing the impact on the community. This is the kind of sensible and practical public policy that is critical to building out open and independent internet infrastructure.
So yes, the Sentinel got this one wrong. Cruzio is committed to working with the City in providing broadband access to the whole community and the City remains committed to working with a trusted local partner to achieve this shared goal. Our first neighborhood is scheduled to be completed by this fall and then we will come back to the City with a larger plan for success. Our hope is that they will be receptive, and we can move forward with gigabit fiber to the rest of the city. Now that’ll be something worth writing about.
Here at Santa Cruz Fiber, we spend a lot of time talking to businesses about the importance of high-speed internet, and the return on investment (ROI) opportunities that they can expect should they switch to gigabit fiber. After all, for businesses it’s all about the bottom line right? Well if you want to save money and improve the quality of your products and services, here are the top 10 reasons to switch to a dedicated fiber connection. (Hint: Did we mention it’s faster, better and cheaper than anything else out there?)
1. It’s Wayyyyy Faster
How much faster? Try 10 – 100 times faster, at least. And no, you didn’t misplace the decimal point, It Is That Fast. Typically your standard cable connection is going to get you anywhere between 20 to 100 mbps (and that’s being really generous), while DSL gets you 10-25 mbps. Santa Cruz Fiber offers gigabit speeds (that’s 1000 Megabits) and is infinitely scalable from there…. How fast is that? Think of being able to download or upload an entire HD movie in one second. Woah. It’s also cheaper, but we will talk more about that later.
2. Internet is Essential to the Modern Workplace
It’s pretty much a given now that most white collar jobs (and even many blue collar jobs) have to make use of the internet to be effective. So why wouldn’t you want to maximize their productivity? Just kidding, of course you do.
According to a recent Pew Research Survey, roughly 94 percent of all working adults used the internet regularly as an essential part of their work. Furthermore, greater access to the internet has been found to be directly correlated to higher rates of productivity and the number of hours worked. Bottom line: Your Employees Need It, Therefore You Need It. We All Need It. Even these generic businesspeople in the stock photo above need it!
3. It’s More Secure
One of the lesser known benefits of fiber internet, while still being extremely important, is that Fiber is much more secure than either a Cable or DSL connection. Whereas cable lines have been shown to be capable of hijacking with ease by that one guy down the street with miraculously free television, Fiber can only be circumvented by physically cutting into the line itself. It also gives you the bandwidth for your other security needs, too: cameras and alerts that can stream to your home computer, so you know right away when an alarm is serious.
4. Fiber is More Reliable
Remember that time too many people in your neighborhood tried to watch Netflix at the same time? Or maybe even that one time your internet stopped working for, like, no reason? That just won’t happen with Fiber. Even if every person in your household tried to stream an HD movie on all of their devices simultaneously, you wouldn’t see a drop in performance. Many traditional telecommunications methods are literally dependent on which way the wind is blowing, as the most common type of interference is electromagnetic.
5. Flexibility, On All Fronts
One of the most important attributes of a modern company is its ability to adapt to new challenges and changing circumstances. Fiber provides that flexibility in ways you probably never thought possible. Is traffic to and from work killing company morale? Try telecommuting. Think your sales team needs to live near the manufacturing plant to review product specs? Think again. With fiber you can manage your entire company on the go, avoiding unnecessary office trips while staying on task in the comfort of your own home.
6. New Technology Assumes You Have The Internet to Handle It
This isn’t your grandfather’s workplace anymore. Now, your average worker spends a typical day navigating between word processing, spreadsheets, .pdfs, and video chat, all without closing their internet browser. Add onto this all of the cloud applications and digital storage you are probably using, and the extent of your reliance on light speed ones and zeros should be pretty apparent. And software is getting more dependent on fast internet every day — imagine how it’ll be a few years from now!
7. Symmetric Bandwidth!
First off what is it? It’s being able to download and upload things at the same speed. Why is this important? Well with Cable and DSL connections you can only upload things at a tenth of the speed of your downloads. So what happens if you need to send in an important presentation in advance of a meeting? Or maybe you need to send a large data file to a customer? Cue that Jeopardy music… If you had fiber, you could have uploaded that file 10 times over by the time you finished reading this sentence.
8. It’s Cheaper
While we mentioned this a bit earlier in the article, it’s worth mentioning again how much cheaper Fiber is per unit of bandwidth than Cable or DSL. While a dedicated Gigabit per second of Fiber and your standard business cable option are going to be around the same price (~$100/month), the fiber is at minimum 10 times faster, and comes with infinite scalability (no further installation required). You buy it once, and forget about it. There is no penalty for cancellation. You don’t have to buy a new cable box every year. And we won’t reroute you to Bangladesh to save money on customer service. More time = less money spent.
9. Happier Employees
While this may not seem like the most direct benefit of a fiber connection, it certainly matters to your bottom line. Employees with greater internet access are more productive, and are statistically more likely to be in a better mood in the office. It’s not just about avoiding the dreaded “buffering” message when looking at cat videos. It’s about a seamless work environment where employees can maintain their focus and feel empowered in their jobs. The real bottom line: happy employees means more productivity, which means it’s really you who is the happy one.
10. Happy Customers
This one should be pretty self-explanatory, but just in case you forgot who makes the world go ‘round: it’s your customers. And boy are they something more than sophisticated, and certainly an impatient bunch.
Customers expect “it” (whatever it is you sell or provide), to work perfectly. All the time, every time. The second your website doesn’t respond to a mouse click, or you have to explain that you’re experiencing “technical difficulties” with a shoulder shrug, is the exact moment you begin to lose legitimacy. The customer is always right for a reason, and that reason is they don’t have to be your customer.
The bottom line: Make the investment. Get Fiber. Get Customers. It’s that simple.
A Bold Vision for a 21st Century Santa Cruz:
With encouragement from our community, Cruzio Internet and the City of Santa Cruz have formed a public-private partnership to develop a city-wide Gigabit fiber to the premise network.
Under the terms of the partnership, the City will own the network, and Cruzio will act as the developer during engineering and construction and as the operator when the network is complete. Financing for the development of the network will be through City-backed municipal revenue bonds, repaid through the revenue from the sale of network services (and not by the taxpayers). The project will be financially self-sustaining and 100% of the profit generated will stay in the City of Santa Cruz.
The goal of the network is to provide affordable gigabit and multigigabit services to as many of the 22,000 residences and business in the City of Santa Cruz as possible. A locally-owned, next-generation broadband network operated openly and independently and built for Santa Cruz, it is uniquely tailored to fit the diverse needs of the Santa Cruz community.
How did this plan come about?
For most of our 25-year history, Cruzio has leased copper phone lines to carry Internet to homes and businesses, paying millions of dollars per year to non-local companies for increasingly inadequate infrastructure.
When a single fiber cut in 2009 left most of Santa Cruz without telecommunications for a full working day, Cruzio immediately began to build an independent, local, fiber/wireless network.
But growth has been piecemeal, and Cruzio was dissatisfied by the limitations of a standard business plan. So we approached the City of Santa Cruz with the idea of serving the whole city, not just the easiest areas. Building big would provide economies of scale, making it possible to reach places otherwise unaffordable. For example, extending fiber to the Boardwalk area might make it economical to reach Beach Flats. But Cruzio could not do this alone.
So Cruzio went to the City.
At about the same time, the City of Santa Cruz was starting to move forward with recommendations from a 2011 technology task force to develop a Broadband Master Plan (presented to City Council on March 10, 2015).
As construction of our downtown and Westside fiber projects progressed in early 2015, so too did our conversations evolve into an exploration of how to build a gigabit fiber optic network to every parcel in the City.
We worked with the City on a rough design and financial model based on comparable networks in other US cities to get an idea of ballpark costs and see if it made sense to explore further. The City then engaged an Internet network engineering firm to do a high level design for a fiber optic network, and to report on the financial feasibility of such a network.
Over the summer, Cruzio will be surveying the residents and businesses of the City of Santa Cruz, and if the results are favorable, the engineering and construction will begin!
What’s So Big About a Gig?
A gigabit capable digital network means you can move billions of bits of data per second from one place to another. Bits are the ones and zeros, the traffic, being transported over a digital network. Imagine a highway billions of lanes wide.
Most existing telephone or cable company data networks provide megabit service, which measures in the millions of bits per second.
So a gigabit network is 100X or more faster than the Internet service you are connected to today. That’s important, even more so as phone, entertainment and news content are migrating to the Net. Not just increased use, but higher quality requires bandwidth.
But Gigabit Internet isn’t just about smoother streaming of movies and TV. This new broadband infrastructure will fuel economic growth, fill empty real estate and take cars off the road by enabling home businesses and telecommuting. Schools, Libraries and Medical facilities will take advantage of the infinitely faster speeds to connect students to teachers, connect communities and transfer medical CAT and MRI scans and genomic data.
There is also the advent of the so-called Internet of Things. While it is true that thermostats and lamps and refrigerators and washers and dryers will be transmitting much smaller packets of data, they will be doing it frequently, and there will be a vast number of “things” connected to this Internet of Things.
“Big Data” and “More Data” will require ever-faster networks.
In many ways, a fiber optic network is “future proof”.
The physical fiber optic cable and conduit are robust, last through decades of use, and are relatively low cost to service and maintain.
Fiber-optic is also unique in that it can effectively carry unlimited amounts of data, as a physical communications channel. It far surpasses the capabilities supported by current local providers. It can scale: the same fiber can carry 1 gigabit or 10 gigabits or 100 gigabits, and so on, to every home or office.
With a gigabit fiber network, the City of Santa Cruz is future-proofing the infrastructure that will support the economy and essential services for many decades.
Why use a Private-Public Partnership?
While the network will generate revenue above costs, unlike a wholly-commercial enterprise a public-private partnership will emphasize universal coverage rather than focusing on commercial profit centers.
Cruzio’s interests align closely with those of the City:
The City itself needs fast, low-cost Internet among its many facilities.
High Speed Internet is good for the economy — both the City and Cruzio are deeply dependent on the local economy.
It seems fair and right to get Internet to all areas of the City, rather than just to elite neighborhoods. Cruzio’s owners and staff are committed to this fairness, as are City leaders.
Fiber optic networks are expensive to build, on the same level as municipal water or sewer systems. Using bonds, well-managed municipalities like the City of Santa Cruz are better able to get very good financing large scale utility projects which run into the tens of millions of dollars.
With the encouragement of City leaders, a high-tech ecosystem has developed with many small startups building businesses locally. The Office of Economic Development recognizes that these, as well as more traditional businesses, need good infrastructure to prosper.
Yet despite this recognition, a highly educated population and proximity to Silicon Valley, Internet in Santa Cruz lags behind most California cities. This makes it a good target for an infrastructure upgrade.
The City has an excellent professional staff overseeing public interest in many relevant areas: Public Works, Finance, Information Technology and Economic Development, to name a few. But the City doesn’t have expertise in initiating, provisioning and supporting service for thousands of users on a digital network, Cruzio does.
As the largest independent ISP in Santa Cruz, with a 25-year history of great service and support, Cruzio is uniquely positioned to operate this network.
Cruzio’s existing backhaul fiber connection saves many months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in setup and monthly costs. The backhaul can provide low cost bandwidth to feed the entire network and is expandable as needed. Our billing and customer service software is in place, tested, scalable and transferable to the new project. Lease payments for customer connections totaling a million dollars a year, currently going out of our area, could be shifted to pay the City.
Finally, Cruzio already has thousands of Internet users in the City of Santa Cruz who can be moved onto the new city-wide fiber network, providing immediate revenue to service the bond payments and top-notch service for the customers.
It will take a while for the network to be financed, engineered and built. We need you to go voice your interest so we know where to build the network first.
With the news last week that the long-planned CASF-backed fiber backbone from Santa Cruz to Soledad has been approved— a project that Cruzio has worked on for years and spearheaded in an earlier incarnation — we thought it would be a good time to talk a little about Cruzio’s Master Plan for broadband expansion in Santa Cruz County. Continue reading →
The City of Santa Cruz and Code for America, a national nonprofit that uses talented web professionals to improve government services, are proud to announce the public launch of OpenCounter, an online small business permitting system.
Designed and developed throughout 2012, OpenCounter reduces the confusion of starting a business by creating an online experience that helps small business owners discover the City forms, fees and time needed to set up shop and apply for them online in a single web session.
The smallest City ever to utilize a Code for America development team, Santa Cruz’s collaboration also saw the development of an open data portal at data.cityofsantacruz.com , new City Hall Wayfinding and newly painted bike lockers downtown. Continue reading →
The words are used time and again in Santa Cruz with good reason. We all love living here in our little slice of paradise. And we want to stay here. With our friends. Our local friends, who happen to be artistic and gifted and running a small business.
Support your community this holiday season by supporting these wonderfully talented neighbors and friends of ours in the coworking space. Check out the list we’ve compiled. Even if it’s last minute shopping you’re doing, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list. Continue reading →
Out of what looked like a common gopher hole, by the path on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, peeked a long-tailed weasel. Much, much cuter than a gopher, with catlike grace but a much longer, skinnier body, the weasel popped in and out of its hole a few times, then scurried down the cliff face to the bay. We haven’t spotted it again.