Category: Policy

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.

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.

FCC validates Sonic robocall blocking efforts

Last year Sonic partnered with the award-winning Nomorobo robocall blocking solution for our Fusion landline phone service. Last Friday, the FCC validated that choice, affirming in a 3 to 2 vote a carrier’s right to offer robocall blocking to its customers.

The FCC’s Chairman, Tom Wheeler, wroteFor the first time, we clarify that there is no legal reason carriers shouldn’t offer their customers popular robocall-blocking solutions, so that consumers can use market-based approaches to stop unwanted calls.

Sonic was the first US telecommunications carrier to integrate and deploy Nomorobo, and we are pleased that the FCC and FTC have supported our consumer-friendly policies on annoying and often fraudulent robocalling. Until this decision last week, it was possible that our decision to offer this free feature would be challenged, so we appreciate the FCC’s decision, and we thank the commissioners for their action on this issue.

Sonic’s Nomorobo blocking feature has blocked over five million spam calls so far, saving huge amounts of time and frustration for our members. The Nomorobo feature is free for Sonic members, who can enable or disable it via our Member Tools.

To learn more about robocalls, see Federal Trade Commission’s Robocalls page, which includes a thorough infographic on how robocalls work. Sonic’s integrated Nomorobo solution was a winner of the FTC’s 2013 Robocall Challenge.

To learn more about Sonic’s Nomorobo feature, see the brief video here:

 

2014 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 fourth annual Transparency Report.

This year we saw zero civil subpoenas, as compared with one in 2013 compared with nine each in 2011 and 2012. Law enforcement subpoena activity increased again in 2014, but as in the past, Sonic’s membership is growing so it is challenging to make a direct comparison between the years.

This year we have added the broad bracket related to National Security Letter (NSL) items, where we are limited to a disclosure of a range, rather than a specific quantity. Sonic participated in filing an amicus brief recently on this topic, which can be found here.

We have also made a number of updates to improve our Sonic.net Legal Process Policy document. The update makes clearer our retention policies for various types of customer records, and provides additional customer notification information.

We have now begun tracking law enforcement orders which are subsequently withdrawn before customer information is provided. In 2014, three law enforcement orders which requested non-disclosure were withdrawn. One of these was re-issued under seal.

Finally, we are stating for the record our position regarding compelled inclusion of back doors, deliberate security weaknesses or disclosure of encryption keys. Sonic does not support these practices.

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.

Protection of Customer Privacy

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. 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.

Today, Sonic joins 43 other advocates, companies and organizations in urging the White House and Congress to move forward with reform of the National Security Agency’s methods for bulk collection of data. The NSA Coalition Letter calls for termination of these practices under the USA PATRIOT Act, a revised bill containing transparency and accountability mechanisms for company reporting as well as declassification for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decisions.

See the letter to the President and members of Congress below for details.

Federal Communications Commission Votes in Net Neutrality

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I spent this week in Washington DC, focusing on policy and legislation. Comptel held its policy summit on Tuesday, and I lobbied in the House and Senate on Wednesday. Capping off the week, today the FCC voted for strong open Internet rules which will protect consumers from unreasonable behavior by carriers.

It is important to draw the distinction between regulation of the Internet, and regulation of carriers. The FCC’s order will disallow carriers from discriminating against sources of traffic that their customers choose to access via the Internet. This is common carriage at its core, and as a carrier, I am supportive of being regulated as a common carrier by the FCC.

I don’t believe we would have gotten here if the access marketplace in the US was truly competitive. Regulation became necessary because consumers have so few choices for their access to the Internet. If consumers could easily choose from many carriers, I believe this would have prevented the issues we have seen.

I take some responsibility for this marketplace failure, and I know that we need to work to deliver more consumers a great competitive choice from Sonic. We are working hard to expand our reach, to improve performance and to increase the value of our service. We will continue that mission with renewed vigor in 2015. Please tell a friend about Sonic today.