Sonic earns top privacy score

May 20, 2014 – 4:29 pm

Sonic is the only Internet Access Provider to earn a perfect privacy score.

Last week the Electronic Frontier Foundation published its annual privacy report. Among the Internet Access Providers on the list, Sonic.net alone earned a perfect six out of six stars. No other Internet Access Provider earned more than three stars. See the report for all the details.

Your private information passes through your Internet Access Provider. So, although a number of web services companies also earned a perfect score – Apple, Twitter and Dropbox among them – your Internet Access Provider’s privacy practices are critical.

When you use Sonic as your Internet Access Provider, we work hard to guard your privacy. Sonic instituted strong privacy practices when the company was founded nearly 20 years ago. We’ve had your back all these years.

Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your colleagues: switch to Sonic.

Read about the annual EFF privacy report in TIME Magazine and on TechCrunch:

“Why Major Tech Companies Are Getting Much Better About Privacy”
“9 Tech Firms Receive Perfect Scores in EFF Ranking Concerning Data Protection From The Government”

An abbreviated version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation Scorecard is below. Check out Sonic’s six-star score:

2014scorecard

To read our privacy policy, visit our wiki.

Thank you for being a member of the Sonic.net community.

 

Net neutrality is dead. Long live net neutrality!

April 29, 2014 – 9:00 am

Congestion Ahead, Expect Delays

Netflix has begun paying a fee to deliver their site’s content to Comcast and Verizon Internet customers who want to access it. This is in addition to the fee which Comcast and Verizon customers themselves pay to access “The Internet”, which of course includes Netflix. The customers pay for Internet access, but the two carriers caused or allowed congestion on their networks in order to limit Netflix’s ability to deliver to their mutual customers.

The fix? A payment from Netflix to both Comcast and Verizon to assure that their traffic makes it to the end-user. Call it “protection”, if you’d like.

The FCC appears to be saying that this is okay, despite this sort of thing being the basis for network neutrality, the principal that all traffic should be treated equally and without discrimination. Net neutrality is dead.

Here at Sonic, we appreciate the Internet. The Internet is why you subscribe, and we are happy to be your choice to deliver a fast, friendly and reliable conduit to access the Internet sites and services that you want. While we do have a lovely home page and we provide a nice array of extras, we understand that the reason you subscribe is to access the Internet. (Thanks, Internet, for being awesome!)

So, we don’t disadvantage any source or type of traffic. Sonic Fusion service has no speed tiers and no usage caps. We deliver the fastest and most consistent performance possible at your location, regardless of the what you are downloading from the Internet.

We are also happy to host content delivery equipment as close to our customers as possible. By partnering with large content sources, we save money on Internet transit while delivering the best performance to our members.

At Sonic, we believe that this is not only the right thing to do, it is also a competitive advantage. (Please tell a friend!)

Long live net neutrality!

2013 Transparency Report

April 28, 2014 – 1:57 pm

Protection of customer privacy is one of our core values at Sonic.net. We seek to provide as much transparency as possible regarding legal processes and customer privacy, so in furtherance of those efforts, we are releasing our third annual Transparency Report.

This year we saw far fewer civil subpoenas than 2012, with just one in 2013 compared with nine each in 2011 and 2012. Law enforcement subpoena activity increased in 2013, but Sonic.net’s membership is also increasing so it is challenging to make a direct comparison between the years. One DMCA content takedown notice was received and complied with. (Content takedowns are less common for Sonic.net because we primarily provide Internet access, and hosting is not a very large part of our business.)

Transparency Report 2013

We have also made one update to our Sonic.net Legal Process Policy document. The update makes clearer our policies by replacing “criminal subpoena” with “criminal legal process” in order to assure that we cover all possible forms of legal process.

Finally, we have now begun tracking law enforcement orders which are subsequently withdrawn before customer information is provided. We expect to release information in our 2014 report which includes more details about these situations.

Internet and telephone service providers have a great responsibility both to protect their law-abiding customers and the public. We continually work to achieve both of these goals.

Sonic Expands to LA Region

January 30, 2014 – 10:42 am

FlexLink & Fusion now available in Greater LA

Please share! We have expanded again, and Sonic.net’s broadband and telephone services are now available throughout much of the LA region.

Sonic’s Fusion service offers residential customers in the LA region a competitive broadband and telephone choice. Fusion includes unlimited land line telephone service plus uncapped and unlimited broadband for just $39.95 monthly.

For details and to check availability, see our Fusion product information page. TV bundles are also available, offering additional savings.

For business customers, FlexLink Ethernet and FlexLink Hosted PBX offer businesses broadband Internet access plus telephone services using fast Ethernet technology. Offering up to 100Mbps of symmetric speed, FlexLink services can be deployed in as little as three weeks for business customers. Hosted PBX service delivers a modern alternative to expensive premise based business telephone systems, with more flexibility and substantial cost savings. Traditional PRI and analog voice services are also available.

If your business is located anywhere in the LA area, contact us to learn more.

Free calling to the Philippines

November 14, 2013 – 5:38 pm

_70986064_hi019909076

In recognition of the massive natural disaster affecting the Philippines, all calls to the country will be free for the month of November. If you have family or friends in this region, we hope for the best for them. We hope that we are able to help you stay connected, with a waiver of all costs for this month.

For those seeking loved ones in the region, Google has activated their Person Finder, a resource for those displaced to register themselves, and for those searching to find and connect. Visit the Typhoon Yolanda person finder.

Securing Email while in transit

November 12, 2013 – 11:29 am

CheckTLS Capture

In an ongoing effort to better secure our member’s communications, we have recently added support for encryption of inbound email to Sonic.net email addresses. Using Transport Layer Security (TLS), we are now negotiating encryption of email in transit with remote mail servers which support this protocol.

From our ops team’s notification: “… This (TLS) allows the session between the connecting server and our’s to be fully encrypted preventing messages from being available “on the wire” in clear text.  Our outbound servers have supported this kind of encryption when sending mail to destinations that support it for more than a decade.  At this time it looks like approximately 15-20% of inbound email is encrypted in transit.”

To test a mail server for encryption security, you can use CheckTLS.com, this will allow you to see if email from a correspondent at another email service provider will be likely to be encrypted.

Internet privacy is important to us, and we continue to improve our services to deliver the best privacy protection we can to our members.

-Dane

Related: Electronic Frontier Foundation releases 2013 privacy score card

 

Duopoly Carriers Aren’t Evil. They’re Public Policy.

May 29, 2013 – 6:30 pm
Susan Crawford at Code for America

Susan Crawford at Code for America


Last week I attended a presentation by Susan Crawford, the author of Captive Audience, The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age. It was held, fittingly, at Code for America in San Francisco.

Ms. Crawford has a pragmatic outlook on the state of telecommunications in America, and I think she’s right on. In highlighting the outcomes of our largely duopoly telecom marketplace in America, in a recent NY Times article, she says “It isn’t evil, it’s just the way things work.”

The fact is, it’s not just the way things work, it is the way the appointed regulators at the FCC from 2001 to 2008 intended it to work. The goal during the chairmanships of Michael Powell and Kevin Martin was “robust, intermodal competition”, where Big Cable and Big Telco would complete, without the distraction of additional competition. In other words, duopoly. And, it’s what we got, by and large. (More on this later; Sonic is the exception.)

So, it’s not evil on the part of the two firms who dominate each regional market, it’s simply the outcome of our regulatory policy.

FCC Chairmain Powell’s BrandX and TRRO, and Chairman Martin’s Broadband Forbearance order together largely eliminated the potential for uniform nationwide competitive pressure on the two operators in each region. The goal was to limit competition in hopes of spurring investment by these two incumbents, with Martin saying about the Forbearance order:

“Promoting broadband deployment is one of the highest priorities of the FCC. To accomplish this goal, the Commission seeks to establish a policy environment that facilitates and encourages broadband investment, allowing market forces to deliver the benefits of broadband to consumers.” -FCC Chairman Kevin Martin

In other words, handing over a doupoly is supposed to encourage the two appointed competitors to duke it out.

I will concede that the policy has worked to some degree. Cable firms have rolled out DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades, and both AT&T and Verizon have made investments to catch up in video and increase broadband speeds. Even Centurylink has made some upgrades to their network.

In a recent article, Susan Crawford points out an op-ed by a Cable executive, titled “U.S. the leader on broadband“. Maybe by making it the headline, it becomes truth.

But, the fact is that we remain well below even the OECD median speed, and we are certainly no leader like Japan, Sweden or Norway. I suppose we can at least take solace that the offered broadband speeds in the US are not as bad as Mexico or Greece.

OECD Broadband Speeds Chart

OECD Broadband Speeds Chart

The policies which arguably helped drive these investments have come at a significant cost to consumers — Americans pay far more for their broadband and get less than citizens of most other developed nations. We pay more than three times as much per megabit as citizens of Sweden or Japan, and a whopping sixteen times as much as those in Korea. In fact, Americans pay more for broadband than residents of virtually all of the OECD countries. Only five countries do worse than US residents: Turkey, Chile, Poland, Greece and Mexico. We are in sad company when it comes to what we pay for broadband.

But, that’s not evil, that’s the outcome of our policy. Cost is the casualty when an intermodal duopoly is favored over full competition as a public policy goal.

OECD Broadband Prices Chart

OECD Broadband Prices Chart

The US median price per megabit is $5.42. Did we get enough performance in exchange for the creation of a virtual duopoly? Probably not, but that’s not evil on the part of our dominant broadband providers, that’s policy, and the way the marketplace was intended to work.

Fusion logo

Postscript:

But what about Sonic.net’s Fusion service?

Fusion is the sort of competition that the 1996 Telecom Act envisioned. And, we are still here despite the de-regulatory hit job by Powell and Martin. We are still here because the basic bones of the 1996 Telecom Act remain strong. While competitive access was curtailed by the intermodal duopoly agenda of the Bush-era FCC, competition is still possible under the Act, at least in metropolitan regions.

Sonic.net’s Fusion service offers competitive European style pricing and features, an “all-in-one” service delivering uncapped and unlimited broadband at up to 20Mbps, plus unlimited nationwide phone service together for one low price. When both the voice and data products are considered, it offers an advertised price about $1 per megabit, better than all but a few of the OECD nations, and less than one fifth of the US median price.

Fusion is available today to four million homes in ninety-six California cities around Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Sacramento. Join up. Then tell a friend. It’s a growing revolution.

Sonic.net Traffic Leaps on Netflix “Arrested” Release

May 28, 2013 – 5:27 pm
Netflix "Arrested Development" release bumps Sunday/Monday Internet traffic by roughly 40% over normal

Netflix “Arrested Development” release helped bump Sunday/Monday Internet traffic 40%

Netflix’s release of Arrested Development appears to be enjoying some strong uptake. Typically we see normal or slightly reduced Internet traffic on a holiday weekend, but the surge in broadband use on Sunday and Monday was substantial, an almost 40% bump in overall usage.

Compare Saturday the 25th with Sunday the 26th, after the Arrested release. And, strong demand continued Monday (binge viewing?), compare Monday the 27th on the right to the left-most sample, Monday the 20th.

While the reviews of Arrested Development have been mixed, its success certainly could be measured here on our network.

2012 Transparency Report

May 24, 2013 – 9:52 pm

Protection of customer privacy is one of our core values at Sonic.net. We seek to provide as much transparency as possible regarding legal processes and customer privacy, so in furtherance of those efforts, we are releasing our second annual Transparency Report.

This year we saw an equal number of civil subpoenas as 2011, with a total of nine in both 2011 and 2012. However, user data was surrendered in only one civil case in 2012. All of the civil cases in 2011 and 2012 were related to allegations of copyright infringement.

Sonic.net Transparency Report 2012

We have also released an updated Sonic.net Legal Process Policy document. This document details our log retention intervals and customer notice policies.

In specific, the updated document makes clear that for user content that, “Sonic.net, Inc. / Sonic Telecom will not provide user content without a U.S. search warrant.” This is an important standard of protection which a number of online service providers have adopted.

Internet and telephone service providers have a great responsibility both to protect their customers and the public. We continually work to achieve both of these goals.

Internet Video Needs a “Carterfone” Decision: Any Lawful Device

May 24, 2013 – 8:43 pm
Carterfone on display in the Sonic.net lobby

Carterfone on display in the Sonic.net lobby


From 1877 until 1968, consumers in the US were only allowed to use telephone equipment that was provided by the telephone company. It was a closed system, where your only choice of handset was the one that the local phone company would rent to you. This was codified by the FCC:

FCC Tariff Number 132: “No equipment, apparatus, circuit or device not furnished by the telephone company shall be attached to or connected with the facilities furnished by the telephone company, whether physically, by induction or otherwise.”

The Carterfone was a special purpose device which allowed mobile radio users to be “patched through” to telephone lines via an acoustic coupling. In other words, the telephone receiver just sat on top of the Carterfone. This was a violation of the rules, and it was challenged as an illegal device by AT&T.

In the Carterphone decision of 1968, the Federal Communications Commission reversed this, allowing customer owned devices to be connected to telephone lines. This eliminated the phone company’s monopoly on equipment, and opened the door to a wave of innovation. This spawned consumer FAX machines, modems, cordless phones and cheap home answering machines. Consumers had choice, and the network was open (at least from the perspective of equipment.)

Today we have a similar problem with video content providers. Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and Hulu all provide access to television shows which you can watch in your web browser. You can view the content on your desktop PC, on your laptop, and you can even plug your laptop into your television to watch in the living room.

But, along comes the modern Carterphone: devices like Google TV, Boxee and Roku. All of these are basically web browsers in a small box which make it more convenient to connect to your TV than a laptop would be. And, like AT&T in the 1960′s, the video content sites have responded by blocking these innovative devices.

The Internet now needs a Carterphone decision. With the blocking of Google TV and other devices, there is a clear violation of the principal of network neutrality. Consumers should be able to view content with “any lawful device”, as the Carterphone decision said.

Clearly, where devices have limitations, it should not be a content providers responsibility to address them. For example, if a site uses Flash to play video, it won’t work on the iPhone. That is Apple’s choice, and an intentional limitation of the device. Content providers certainly should not be required to make their content work with every possible device.

But, when a device has the technical capabilities to access content, it should not be blocked by the content provider. Doing so is discriminatory protectionism and a violation of the tenets of network neutrality.