Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Santa Cruz fights fire with fiber

By Steve Blum
Tellus Venture Associates
Special to Santa Cruz Tech Beat

October 18, 2017 — Santa Cruz, CA

(Image credit: Jim Warner)

Early Tuesday morning, October 17, 2017, as a wild fire burned in the Santa Cruz mountains, a key AT&T fiber line was cut nearby. There are differing accounts of exactly what happened, but it seems to have been the result of heavy equipment hitting the cable in the course of fighting the Bear fire, near Boulder Creek.

In 2009, a break in a different AT&T cable effectively knocked Santa Cruz, Watsonville and most of the rest of the county off of the Internet for most of a day. Since then, AT&T, Comcast and independent broadband companies have upgraded and diversified cable routes running north and south. As a result, Tuesday’s cut went unnoticed by most people in Santa Cruz.

But not all. The County of Santa Cruz’s IT infrastructure was connected directly to the severed AT&T cable, and back up capacity was not fully configured. So the County’s website went down, just as traffic from people looking for emergency information spiked.

Fortunately, Cruzio, a local Internet service provider of 30 years standing, had a solution already in place. As a result of an earlier swap with the County, Cruzio installed a 100 Mbps back-up circuit in the County’s main building on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz. It was connected to Cruzio’s high capacity links that rely on newly installed fiber routes, one going north to Sunnyvale and the other heading south through Watsonville to the Internet backbone along the U.S. 101 corridor.

Within an hour of getting the call, Cruzio had it up and running.

But it wasn’t enough. The flood of requests for fire updates and evacuation plans coming into the website was overwhelming. County staff asked that the connection be bumped to 200 Mbps; Cruzio replied by opening it up to 1 Gbps. “No charge for any of this of course,” said James Hackett, director of business operations and development at Cruzio.

Had there been a repeat of the outage caused by the 2009 AT&T fiber cut, on top of a growing fire threatening lives and homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the result could have been a major, and dangerous, disruption. Instead, the work that’s been done over the past eight years to build independently-owned fiber optic lines in the region, led primarily by U.C. Santa Cruz, kept the focus where it needed to be: on fighting the fire.


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