Category: Access

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 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!

Net neutrality is dead. Long live net neutrality!

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!

Sonic Expands to LA Region

FlexLink & Fusion now available in Greater LA

Please share! We have expanded again, and’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.

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

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


But what about’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.’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.

San Francisco Cabinets

The San Francisco Business Times reports that a San Francisco judge has rejected a challenge to AT&T’s planned cabinet deployment, which will soon deliver AT&T’s U-verse broadband and television services.

I’ve written in the past in support of the infrastructure necessary for broadband service delivery, and I am heartened by this ruling that the cabinets are not subject to environmental review.

That said, cabinets can be a magnet for graffiti, and service providers should minimize their cabinet footprint while monitoring for incidents of graffiti. Cleanup must be swift when damage does occur.’s own plan to deliver Gigabit Fiber-to-the-home in San Francisco is moving along, with a number of regulatory and permitting hurdles now behind us. While this project would mean around 188 additional cabinets in San Francisco, this is a lesser number than is needed for the slower copper-delivered U-verse service, so it is a lower impact project.

We are sensitive to the concerns of San Francisco residents, and will seek to minimize the visual and obstructive impact of our planned cabinet deployments. Cabinets will be monitored for graffiti, and we will establish a graffiti reporting hotline for reporting. Any graffiti found will be removed within one weekday.

We will also deliver the best possible service: Fiber-to-the-home, at full Gigabit speeds.