Peggy Dolgenos is 1,000 percent committed to connectivity. At the epicenter of all things Cruzio, Dolgenos seeks not only faster, bigger cyber connections for her community, but also enriched real-world connections among the clients she serves.
Cruzio, started up 26 years ago by Dolgenos and her partner (in life and in business) Chris Neklason, is a rare and feisty independent entity. Competing successfully in the Internet Service Provider arena of big companies like AT&T and Comcast, Cruzio aims to provide even higher-speed low-cost Internet access in the very near future.
The santacruzfiber.com project is all about getting gigabit high-speed, low-cost Internet—currently available in the Cruzio headquarters on Cedar Street—to the greater Santa Cruz community. With enough buy-in from residential and business users, the gigabit (a thousand megabits per second) fiber optic initiative would lay fiber to provide data uploading and downloading at speeds currently available only through costly large telecom providers. The difference is that this service would be locally owned and independently operated. “Enough people will have to sign up, we need buy-in,” Dolgenos explains. “The more subscribers, the lower the fees. We’ll be able to provide from 10 to 100 times the speed for the same money.”
Cruzio’s fiber connectivity benefited from the time when UCSC wanted to bring fiber to its campus. “That gave us the opportunity to work with the same company to bring fiber all the way down into the City of Santa Cruz,” says Dolgenos. “Cruzio’s connection is private and separate from UCSC’s—we’re leasing lines that go along the same path as the lines UCSC is leasing.” Currently, Cruzio has “the best connected building in the county,” but now Dolgenos has set her sights on “fibering up” the rest of the Santa Cruz community. “It’s such a good project. We approached the city about partnering with us, and they said yes. We believe in it—it seems right to offer it to everyone. There’s an economy of scale to doing it all at once, and reaching out to regions beyond the downtown.” And, yes, that means Dolgenos would like everyone to take the gigabit project survey.
“We were always open to big things, to big projects,” Dolgenos recalls. “We were both computer programmers for Santa Cruz Operation. And we thought we were going to change media, from a broadcast paradigm to one that empowered the user.”
When she was growing up, the Cruzio CEO admits, “I wanted to be so many things, an engineer, an artist, a writer, a boss of a company—and now I get to do all of those things.”
Originally from New York, the tall woman with a firm handshake and a soothing smile, moved out here “because just look at it! I fell in love with the Bay Area and Santa Cruz,” she says.
Armed with a degree in Administrative Systems from Yale, Dolgenos took a second degree at UCSC in Computer Science. “I was always a bit late getting on board with technology. But I saw what it could do. And I wanted to empower people,” she says. And so 26 years ago, the region’s independent Internet Service Provider—Cruzio—was launched. “We were one of the first to offer email to everybody. Everybody should have this, I thought, and not just those in universities or government bureaucracies. Being progressive means you believe in positive change,” she says. Her delivery is simultaneously calm, upbeat, and compelling. “I believe businesses should be Utopian, make good things happen. The Internet has done that. On the other hand,” she laughs, “we didn’t foresee spam, and neither did the creators of email.”
“We used phone lines, at first, to transmit data,” she explains, recalling the sounds of dial-up modems reverberating through the garage that was Cruzio’s first home and company incubator. “The epicenter of the business was our garage until 1993. We couldn’t take a vacation for many years,” she says.
Running the business together works out well, Dolgenos believes, “because we’re very different. We help each other out. Chris has more of an engineer’s temperament, things either fit or they don’t. I’m much more comfortable with ambiguity. I’m interested in a lot of things, which is good for entrepreneurs.” Dolgenos was appointed for the past two years as director of the Santa Cruz County Business Council. “If you’ve been interested in a lot of things, you can think about solutions from many points of view.”
Dolgenos refers frequently to “our community,” by which she means the Cruzio community and its subscribers. “We couldn’t do this as easily anywhere else. We are so lucky,” she says, “because our community welcomes an independent company.”
The best part of all? “Our staff,” says Dolgenos. “We have about 30 employees. I love them all. And our co-working spaces are great—we can take advantage of all of the shared interests of other geek heads. We can find out what they’re doing.” And now, with her three children out of the house, and thanks to “having great people to take care of things 24/7,” Dolgenos can actually take vacations. santacruzfiber.com.
CRUZIN’ NETWORK Peggy Dolgenos of Cruzio Internet in the Cruzioworks coworking space in downtown Santa Cruz. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER