Category: Access

Net Neutrality Day — now what?

On Wednesday, Sonic and thousands of supporters came together for a day of action to save the internet. The Sonic team was at the San Francisco Mission BART station Wednesday, educating the public about the importance of net neutrality. Keeping it fun, yes, those are tattoos! (the temporary kind). We also sent a call to action to our customers, posted on our website, submitted letters to Congress, and spoke with anyone that would listen about the importance of Net Neutrality.

In fact, I did a Reddit AMA to chat with users about the critical importance of fighting to keep current net neutrality regulation that keeps the internet open and equal for all in place. I also wrote a San Francisco Chronicle opinion article on the importance of net neutrality.

For more on the topic and its importance, here is a roundup of some of the recent coverage to get you up to speed:

The outpouring of support for Net Neutrality Day was nothing short of inspiring. Over 2 million comments, 5 million emails, and 125,000 calls were made to the FCC. You fought alongside Sonic and countless others for your internet freedom. You told the FCC and Congress that you deserve open and equal internet access.

But our fight is not over. On Monday, the FCC will stop accepting constituent feedback on Net Neutrality regulation. Until then, your continued support in sharing news stories, posting on social, and submitting your letters to Congress and the FCC is more important than ever, so if you haven’t commented yet, please do so today.

Thank you for joining Sonic as we continue to fight for your freedom on the internet. Share this with friends. Post on social media, or forward this message. We’ve only got until Monday to make our voices heard!

Privacy Matters

This week Congress overturned internet privacy rules that would have applied to carriers like Sonic, and this presents a good opportunity for us to reiterate our position on privacy.

Sonic has long supported privacy efforts which would protect the rights of our members, and has engaged in ongoing advocacy on this issue for many years. We disagree with industry members who have lobbied for the ability to monitor internet usage by consumers. The health of the internet ecosystem critically depends upon confidence by creators and consumers that their usage will not be monitored or sold.

As we have said before, we believe many of the issues related to carrier practices and policies are fundamentally a competitive market failure. This includes net neutrality and privacy, but also product design and pricing, usage caps, customer service and more. If consumers could choose from fifteen different internet service providers, the competitive market would reward the best policies, prices, reliability and practices.

Sonic and a few other competitive internet service providers aside, the US does not have an adequately competitive market. And until that is achieved, regulation of some carrier policies and practices is important.

The pending repeal of the broadband privacy rules provides an opportunity for Sonic to clarify our policies, and to call out some specific policy points:

  • Sonic never sells our member information or usage data, nor do we voluntarily provide government or law enforcement with access to any data about users for surveillance purposes.
  • Sonic minimizes data retention, keeping data from 0 – 14 days for dynamic IP addresses and other logs and commits to EFF’s privacy-friendly Do Not Track policy. We believe that user data should not be retained longer than necessary, and that users deserve to have a clear understanding of personal data held by service providers.
  • Sonic is also against the re-authorization of Section 702 (the law behind the PRISM and Upstream programs). Governments and other entities should not collect huge quantities of phone, email or other internet usage data directly from the physical infrastructure of any communications provider.

We have also updated further our policy document, adding new language regarding notification of customers when legal process is served under seal.

2016 Transparency Report

Protection of customer privacy is one of our core values at Sonic. 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 sixth annual Transparency Report.

In 2016 we saw processed just one civil subpoenas, as compared with two in 2015, zero in 2014, one in 2013 compared with nine each in 2011 and 2012. Law enforcement subpoena activity increased compared to 2015, with 20 orders, but only 30% of these were provided responsive data. Note for those comparing year to year activity: Sonic’s membership is growing so it is not possible to make a direct comparison in volume from year to year.

As in years past, we can only publish the broad bracket related to National Security Letter (NSL) items, we are limited to a disclosure of a range rather than a specific quantity.

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.

2015 Transparency Report

Protection of customer privacy is one of our core values at Sonic. 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 fifth annual Transparency Report.

In 2015 we saw processed two civil subpoenas, as compared with zero in 2014, one in 2013 compared with nine each in 2011 and 2012. Law enforcement subpoena activity decreased compared to 2014. Note also that Sonic’s membership is growing so it is not possible to make a direct comparison between the years.

As in years past, we can only publish the broad bracket related to National Security Letter (NSL) items,  we are limited to a disclosure of a range rather than a specific quantity.

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.

Dear Mr. President

President Obama talk about broadband speed

President Obama recently called out San Francisco for being America’s slowest-connected large city. And that’s ironic, because San Francisco is the cradle of so much technological innovation. Companies here are building amazing things, including some notable Sonic customers such as Maker Media.

But when they go home, San Francisco residents are worse served than consumers in much of the rest of the country. Indeed the US as a whole has some of the worst connectivity in the developed world.

Here is the chart that President Obama is pointing to above, and he’s calling out you, San Francisco:

Screen Shot Internet Download Speeds By City

Mr. President, we are changing that, right now. Sonic now provides Gigabit (1000Mbps) Fiber to the home service in San Francisco!

San Francisco, and indeed every city, deserves for its residents and businesses the fastest possible connections, without caps, tiered pricing, or crappy customer service. We can do better. Sonic’s continuing mission is to build and deliver a better Internet service. Whether it is crushing artificial data caps and tiers, fair policies that protect our lawful customers, or just a simple, all-inclusive price, we’ve got a better way.

In San Francisco specifically, the race is on now, and Sonic has the lead. As the first to deliver consumer-priced Gigabit Fiber to the home in San Francisco, we are thrilled to see our customers posting up awesome speeds, and telling us how thrilled they are with their new Sonic Fiber service.

So with all of this in mind, Mr. President, I want to assure you that the city of San Francisco, cradle of so much innovation, is well on its way to getting the widely available Gigabit Fiber connectivity it deserves. (And, it’s time to update your chart!)

And for the people of San Francisco, to help bring Gigabit Fiber to every home, I have just two requests: Please join Sonic as a member, and even if we are not yet offering Fiber in your area, please click here to share what we are doing. Together, we can fix Internet access in America.

Sonic Fusion Gigabit Fiber Now Available in San Francisco

Underground conduit buildAfter years of planning and construction, I am happy to announce that Sonic has launched our Gigabit Fiber service in San Francisco.

Sonic’s Fusion Fiber service delivers Internet access at one Gigabit per second, and is currently available for ordering or pre-ordering in the Sunset and Richmond Districts in San Francisco. Residents can visit our Gigabit page to learn more and check for available Sonic services.

Sonic’s Fusion service is $40 per month. In addition to broadband at up Gigabit speed, Fusion also includes home phone service with nationwide calling, plus unlimited international calling to fixed lines in sixty six countries.

Gigabit Fiber Internet access delivers speed of up to 1000 Mbps to the devices in your home. This is some of the fastest residential Internet available in the United States, with performance roughly 100 times faster than the average Internet connection in the United States today.

Sonic’s Fusion service also includes home phone service with unlimited nationwide calling, plus now unlimited global calling to fixed line numbers in 66 countries and US territories, including popular destinations such as Mexico and India.

Sonic has previously delivered Gigabit Fiber in Brentwood and Sebastopol, plus business parks in Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Windsor. Sonic is proud to be the largest Gigabit Fiber Internet provider in the Bay Area, and now, San Francisco’s first Gigabit Fiber Internet provider.

Please tell a friend!

Go, Monopoly! Go! Go!

Screenshot 2015-11-17 17.02.48

I’m flying across the US today, enjoying in-flight Internet access along the way. Internet access in the sky changes the equation for travellers, particularly for business users, allowing them to stay in touch and productive, despite zipping along at 550mph.

While I’m feeling a bit spoiled by this handy access (and a bit disloyal to GoGo as I post this), the in-flight monopoly reminds me of some of America’s issues with terrestrial Internet access. Up here in the sky, I’ve got one choice, just as most Americans have just one choice for fast Internet access in their homes.

And just as consumers on the ground do by switching providers frequently, or calling for a better price every year, I’ve got to game the billing system in order to get a fair price. In my case, by connecting via VPN in order to buy a flight pass using the Sonic IP, yielding a much lower price than is offered onboard. (Is charging me more once I’m on the plane fair? Maybe @GoGo will respond with a comment below. Tip: If you forget to pre-purchase before your flight and are feeling gouged, buy 30 minutes of access, then use the Sonic VPN to connect to gogoair.com and buy more time or a segment pass at a lower cost than is offered onboard.)

At Sonic, our goal is to deliver more and more value for our members, at a fair and simple price. While we do from time to time run specials (like a month free, or a free Roku, or a monthly discount, or $5 off with a television bundle, etc) for new members, we don’t do the routine “call the cable company every year to threaten to cancel, fight, renew/re-negotiate” with our customers. No matter how you come in, you end up in the same place in the long run. That’s fair.

Why? Because we’ve got a mission: fixing the state of Internet access in America.

We want to partner with our members in that mission, and part of that is the financial support which you provide every month by being a member. Every dollar supports building a better product for you, our Sonic members.

Fixing the Internet will take a huge movement, which is why we work so hard to recruit new members to our mission. That’s is why we love seeing our members referring their friends, family, and workplace to Sonic. Thank you very much for spreading the word about our mission.

Together we can build a new Internet access model for America, beyond just one choice, beyond cable. One without artificial tiers and usage caps, with $40 gigabit fiber, while protecting the privacy of our lawful customers. It’s going to take time, and a lot of money. But it is possible, and I look forward to doing it, with the support of our members.

Sonic Expands Gigabit Fiber for Businesses

Sonic has completed Gigabit Fiber Internet construction in the business park network at the Sonoma County Airport, and last week began to activate new Gigabit business customers.

The new network spans nine miles, passes hundreds of businesses, lighting over 200 buildings. Some of these locations only had T1 (1.5Mbps) services available prior to the build-out of Sonic Gigabit Fiber Internet.

This is Sonic’s second completed business park fiber build-out, after the Corporate Center park in Southwest Santa Rosa which was completed last year. Next up, construction is underway to serve businesses in Petaluma off North McDowell and the Redwood business park.

The business Gigabit Fiber Internet product offers Gigabit (1000Mbps) Internet access plus Hosted PBX to the desktop; a complete business communications suite. Pricing is $40 per employee or desk per month for Gigabit Internet access, cloud phone service and unlimited nationwide calling. Custom solutions are also available including building interconnection for campus WANs, SIP trunking, PRI and POTS.

Business fiber services are part of Sonic’s overall fiber initiatives, and support the expansion of network capacity and backbone throughout our regional footprint.

Here are a few photos related to the Airport project:

Net Neutrality is Just a Symptom

There are a number of threats to the Internet as a system for innovation, commerce and education today. They include net neutrality, the price of Internet access in America, performance, rural availability and privacy.

But none of these are the root issue, they’re just symptoms.

The root cause of all of these symptoms is a disease: a lack of competition for consumer Internet access.

Lets call it like it is: in most of America, we’ve got a broadband duopoly at best. And it’s simple economic theory and best-practice capitalism that in an unregulated near-monopoly, you will see manifestations of policies, practices and behaviors that are not always customer friendly.

If we accept that high speed Internet access is essential for modern life, the fact that we need a set of controls that assure that an entrenched operator won’t use their captive audience in an unreasonable way shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But policies on neutrality can only fix one symptom of America’s ailment. They won’t help with the issues like price, speed, rural access or privacy practices.

The real cure is an outbreak of competitive Internet access.

But in 2004, the FCC took steps to limit competition, turning away from key provisions of the 1996 Telecom Act. They set aside unbundling requirements which serve as a key bridge for competitive carriers. By circumventing Congress this way, the Bush-appointed Chairman of the FCC was able to turn back a competitive tide, creating an intentional duopoly on Internet access in the US.

The in FCC’s Triennial Review Remand Order of 2004, they wrote:

In our Triennial Review Order, we recognized the marketplace realities of robust broadband competition and increasing competition from intermodal sources, and thus eliminated most unbundling requirements for broadband architectures serving the mass market

(“Robust broadband competition?” Really??)

While neutrality is the topic of the day, the real fix is to reinvigorate competitive Internet access in America. Competitive access in Europe supported by legislation similar to The 1996 Act has resulted in lower costs for consumers and far more choices in Europe. What Michael Powell decided to do hasn’t worked out as well for Americans.

Today’s FCC should return to the roots of the Telecom Act, and reinforce the unbundling requirements, assuring that they are again technology neutral. This will create an investment ladder to facilities for competitive carriers, opening access to build out and serve areas that are beyond our reach today.

I call on the FCC to reconsider the decisions of that past era, and to take steps to reintroduce UNE-L (unbunded network element: loop) requirements, including access to available dark fiber, which is a critical backhaul component for competitive carriers. Copper unbundling is only fully viable when the middle mile fiber isn’t missing from the equation.

ps: Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell is now a lobbyist for the National Cable & Telecom Association. The Cable-company members of that association are the “robust” competition from “intermodal” (that’s cable) sources referenced above, and also provided a nice soft landing for a former FCC Chairman. How often does a regulator get the chance to create a monopoly, then go work for it? Too often.

Sonic Statement on Net Neutrality

On Monday, President Barack Obama announced his plan to protect net neutrality, asking the FCC to prevent Internet providers and cable companies from blocking or limiting access to websites. Obama said,

“They should make it clear … Internet providers have a legal obligation not to block or limit your access to a website,” he said Monday. “Cable companies can’t decide which online stores you can shop at, or which streaming services you can use, and they can’t let any company pay for priority over competitors.”

In a marketplace dominated by a few carriers, scarcity and tolls have become the new normal. This choice puts the the health of the Internet as an ecosystem for innovation, economic growth and education at risk. Consumers should not become captive pawns in a game to extract more value from the Internet as a whole.

Sonic continues to adhere to the net neutrality practices implemented since its founding in 1994:

  • We don’t disadvantage any source or type of traffic.
  • There are no per-circuit speed tiers and no usage caps.
  • We host content delivery equipment as close to our customers as possible.

At Sonic, we are continuing our growth efforts, including fiber construction, while continuing our focus on delivering reliable, neutral, secure and private Internet access.

See also: Net neutrality is dead. Long live net neutrality!