Celebrating Sonic’s 25th Anniversary

This Friday, July 26th 2019 marks 25 years since we started serving our California communities with fast, affordable, friendly internet. We have grown a lot as a company since then, and for a local Internet Service Provider (ISP) competing with giant telecom and cable companies, this milestone is no small feat. That’s why we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers for their support over the past quarter of a century.  Without the loyalty of our Sonic members, we wouldn’t be where we are today – thank you!

Your support has been key. Your membership has allowed Sonic to continue to expand our fast, innovative fiber optic network. And your advocacy, making your voices heard on key policy issues that would stifle competition and limit our ability to deploy more fiber has made a difference. Make no mistake — the support we have received from our customers on regulatory policy has been vital to our 25 years of success.

We have come a long way in 25 years, but have never strayed from our mission: to fix internet access in America by deploying fast, affordable, and reliable internet for our members, backed by our award-winning customer support team. Today, we are offering the fastest home internet service out there: unlimited Gigabit fiber. This is long way from our service in 1994, which was cutting-edge 16.8kbps dial-up. Anyone remember that? These early members do:

  • “I’m a big believer in shopping local, and keeping our money here in Sonoma County. […]  Believe it or not, calling Sonic tech support is one of my favorite things. I know I’m going to get a super competent and extremely nice person who will solve my issue..”  – Blair Hardman at local business and Sonic member, Zone Recording (member since 1995)
  • “I work from home as a technical writer, so I always needed the fastest connection I could get. […] Plus I love supporting a local business, and having local support with humans who answer the phone. I’m always telling my friends who complain about their Internet provider to just use Sonic and lose all the hassles.”  – Barbara Snyder, one of our first-ever members (joined in 1995)
  • “I stay with Sonic for not only their awesome customer service, but also their dedication to the privacy of their members and an open Internet. My most memorable experience is probably in 2001 when I was finally able to switch from dial-up to DSL […]  It felt like I had finally realized the potential of the Internet.” – Brendan Coen, who heard about Sonic from a professor at Santa Rosa Junior College (my alma mater!), back when all we served was dial-up in 1995

This evolution did not come without its challenges. In an industry as heavily regulated as telecom, being an independent provider has always carried the weight of federal, state, and local policy changes. That’s why we’ve always advocated for sensible regulations that put you–our customers–at the forefront and battled the ones that put your access in jeopardy.

We’re thrilled about what the next 25 years will bring — no matter what, we won’t stop fighting to bring you the fast, affordable, friendly internet you deserve. Thanks for being part of our journey by helping spread the word about Sonic to your friends, family, and neighbors.

-Dane

Sonic Meets Ongoing Demand for Affordable, High Speed Internet

Chronicle: "This is Sonic's biggest fiber expansion yet."

We’ve talked about 2019 being the year of fiber expansion, and Sonic has kicked it off with its biggest fiber rollout to date. In addition to our growing reach in San Francisco and the East Bay, our high speed Gigabit Fiber service will soon be available in the Peninsula for the first time ever! I’m also really excited about our first big fiber to the home project in the North Bay, in Petaluma.

The expansion will reach 19 new Bay Area cities and neighborhoods including Burlingame, San Mateo, Hillsborough, South San Francisco and portions of Cow Hollow, parts of Pacific Heights, Lower Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Chinatown, North Beach, San Carlos, Belmont, San Bruno, Millbrae, Redwood City, North Fair Oaks, Emerald Hills and Petaluma. See the Chronicle today for more details.

Current Sonic Fusion customers in these areas will receive an early installation invitation automatically, so just keep an eye on your email for updates as construction progresses.

For those of you who are not yet Sonic members, fiber pre-orders for these new locations are now available on the Sonic website. You will get your installation invitation shortly after our current members. Installations will begin this spring. So please, tell a neighbor what we’re up to!


Sonic technician Tom Sherrill works on securing the cable to the utility wires through branches as he installs fiber optic cable in Berkeley.
Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

Our massive expansion shows the demand in the Bay Area for affordable, very high-speed internet service and our ongoing determination to bring it to you. Together, we can fix what’s broken with internet access in America.

As interest in Cable continues to decline and streaming services gain more traction, having high-speed, reliable internet is no longer a luxury. It’s a must-have. For those looking to escape cable’s monopoly, Sonic provides a fast and affordable alternative that can power everything from streaming entertainment services to laptops and tablets to smart home devices. We intend to continue keeping up with evolving technologies and household broadband and WiFi needs, and by kicking off 2019 with our broadest fiber expansion yet, we’re doing just that.

This year not only marks our biggest expansion ever–it’s also the year of Sonic’s 25th anniversary. Since 1994, we have been committed to supplying our shared local communities with fast, affordable connectivity.  We look forward to many more years of continuing the momentum toward our ultimate goal of building a better, faster and more affordable internet in the Bay Area and far beyond.

-Dane

2019 Predictions: Putting Consumers Back in the Driver’s Seat




It’s been a busy 2018 in the world of telecom and here at Sonic. While this year saw some hurdles – the USTelecom Association’s forbearance petition to name one –  we’re more optimistic about the future than ever before. And that’s because consumers are back behind the wheel, pushing telecom providers and regulators alike to innovate and implement policies that match today’s market demands. Here are our predictions for the year ahead:  

  • 2019 will mark the death of cable: For years we’ve been talking about “cord-cutting,” the trend of consumers cutting cable subscriptions in favor of over-the-top (OTT) streaming services. Well, 2019 is the year we stop talking about the decreasing interest in cable and start searching for its replacement. The bundle approach many of the telecom giants use to force cable subscriptions on their customers is no longer a selling factor, and we’re seeing a growing need for greater flexibility in these packages and service offerings. Streaming services have gone mainstream across all generations, eliminating cable provider’s core customer base: the baby boomers. In addition, nearly every television on the market is equipped with “smart” features, like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon video, already embedded. To fully utilize these streaming services, consumers need fast, reliable internet that can power both their streaming entertainment services, as well as all of their laptops, tablets and smart home devices. As consumers continue to cut ties with cable, we’ll see more telecom providers evolve their offerings to meet these advancing consumer demands. A 2019 Toast: Here’s to internet providers that keep up with this evolving technology and anticipating consumer needs. Sonic plans to do just that.
  • Calls to end robocalls will heighten: Earlier this year, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai called on carriers to strengthen their commitment to robocall blocking. For us, this is nothing new. We launched a robocall blocker before it was legal to do so, knowing full well that if the FCC took us to task on it that we’d be on the right side of the issue. To this day, we remain the only landline carrier that offers screened robocall blocking to all customers, and we have blocked millions of robocalls. As the FCC continues to put robocalls under the microscope, expect more providers to launch initiatives claiming to block or decrease the volume of these nuisance calls. Sonic is no exception – we’re committed to the future deployment of additional technologies to block robocalls even further through 2019. A 2019 Toast: Here’s to getting the calls you care about in 2019 (and always) with Sonic.
  • 2019 will be the year of fiber expansion: Despite what may be the death of San Francisco’s municipal fiber effort, Sonic is continuing to expand in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area. Now covering one-third of San Francisco and one city after another in the East Bay Area, Sonic has experienced tremendous growth over the past year with no signs of slowing down. For residents and businesses, gigabit fiber is moving from a “nice to have” to a “must have.” The smart home and streaming services are gaining steam with the growing adoption of connected devices like connected security cameras, voice-powered home assistants, and smart lighting systems, creating an unprecedented need for fast and reliable internet. We understand our members’ needs and will continue to deliver the speedy, affordable internet they depend on to power their tech-centric lifestyles. Check here to see if Sonic is available in your neighborhood.  A 2019 Toast: Here’s to getting as many people as possible connected to fast, affordable, and fair internet service.

The stage is set for 2019 – a year focused on consumers. At Sonic, we’re thrilled to be at the forefront of these growing trends and to continue our momentum as the leading internet provider in the Bay Area. We pride ourselves on our consumer-first approach and are dedicated to providing the fastest, most reliable internet connection to homes and businesses across the Bay Area.

Sonic Fights to Save Internet Competition




Sonic was founded on the idea that every home and business in America deserves fast, affordable access to the internet backed with the friendliest customer care around. No outrageous prices. No hidden fees. Our goal is, and always has been, simple: fast, affordable internet for all.  

Now, our goal and the very idea of competition is being threatened. In May, the USTelecom Association, a lobbying group that represents AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, and Frontier, among others, filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to eliminate independent carriers’ access to key infrastructure. Sonic and many other competitive ISPs across the country use this infrastructure as a sort of bridge to broadband. In fact, it was access to this infrastructure or “UNEs” that helped lower barriers into the telecom market and spurred deployment, investment, and innovation among competitors — a tactic that remains successful today, most notably for Sonic.

If this petition were granted, it would dramatically raise prices on consumers, hinder access to high-speed internet, and impede Sonic – and others like us – from continuing fiber deployment. Worst of all, it would leave consumers with fewer remaining options for an ISP (some of which are the most hated companies in America).

Supporting our customers is one of Sonic’s core values, so we partnered with INCOMPAS to take a stand for your access to competitive choice. We asked our customers for support in saving competition and received an outpouring of letters to the FCC opposing the recent US Telecom petition. Along with Sonic, customers from ISPs all over the country submitted comments and told their stories on why telecom competition and their ability to choose their provider is important to them.

John D. Cappelletti, Vice President of Finance and Operations at Split Software, chose Sonic for his business. Without our services, John would be impacted by “higher costs, poor handoff equipment and terrible customer service” at the hands of our competitors.

In order to keep customers like John happy, the telecom industry needs to remain stable with choice and competition. In an effort to combat the USTelecom petition, we have filed comments with the FCC alongside more than 9,000 concerned citizens (residents, business owners, schools, and others) who have voiced their concerns to the FCC.

And in further support in the validity of our fight, there is a new economic analysis from William P. Zarakas, a principal at The Brattle Group, that shows competitive local exchange carriers, like Sonic, have led the charge in fiber network buildout over incumbent players. “The presence of a third facilities-based competitor in 1,307 census blocks would almost certainly not have happened if not for the availability of UNEs. For Sonic, UNEs served to effectively lower the barriers to entering facilities-based competition, and advanced the FCC’s objectives of enhancing investment in broadband networks,” said Zarakas.

We’ll continue being a voice for our customers and fighting for fair, affordable internet. We have and will always stand up for our customers, and for their right to choose an ISP that puts them first.

Below are additional customer quotes about our service:

  • “As a County Office of 42 Districts, cost is one of the main factors considered due to schools using public funds and having tight budgets. Sonic not only provides the lowest cost, but their customer service is by far the best I have seen, from the CEO to the installation crew,” said Candy Amos, Information Systems Support Analyst at Sonoma County Office of Education.
  • “I’m software engineer and participating member of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). Needless to say, the internet is crucial for me. I could not communicate with my team around the world if it were not for reliable, fast internet access. That’s why I’m a customer of a CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier), because the big two options for internet access — AT&T and Comcast, in my case — are horrible choices.” – Nicholas Hurley, local Sonic resident user. (the views expressed are those of a participating member of IETF and do not necessarily represent the views the IETF)

Net neutrality lives on with Sonic




You may have heard: the internet as we know it is in grave danger. This isn’t a new topic. This is something that’s been in the news and at the top of Sonic’s radar for years. But we’re here to tell you that no matter what happens, Sonic remains committed to the principles of net neutrality.

Sonic always has and always will keep our internet connections open and equal. You can watch what you want, when you want, on any content provider you choose (Netflix, Hulu, HBO, SlingTV — it’s all the same to us). We will continue to protect your right to privacy, and your right to not have your own data or internet usage information sold or shared. Ever. We will never charge you more to access certain sites, and we will never slow down others for any reason. Sonic will continue to stand up for everything net neutrality stands for, whether the regulations require it or not.

The bad news? It’s looking highly likely that net neutrality is going to be repealed nationwide. The good news? Regardless of which direction legislation takes regarding net neutrality, we are here for our customers, and our network will remain neutral. You still have a choice in who you choose as an internet service provider. You can choose to support ISPs that keep their internet connections open and equal for all. Whether that’s Sonic or another local option in your area, you can choose to support those who support fair regulation, such as net neutrality.

Since the beginning, Sonic has stood up for our customers. And that’s never going to change.

For us, the responsibility we have to our members is not a passing trend. When we say there is nothing more important than the customers who make up the Sonic network, we mean it. We’ll continue to back up our words with official policies that benefit you.

And we aren’t giving up yet. You still have time to contact your representatives and demand that they step in and tell the FCC to continue to protect your rights online. Call, write, email, and stay engaged. The FCC’s vote on repeal happens December 14th unless Congress steps in to stop it.

Please also share with your friends, family, and colleagues: you have a choice to support the ISPs that continue to support net neutrality and consumer privacy.

Post and share: https://www.sonic.com/sonic-net-neutrality

 

 

Post-fire Update




It has been more than three weeks since the fires started in the North Bay area, and while the fires are extinguished, the difficult process of recovery has only just begun. California’s largest wildfire has badly hurt our hometown, with Santa Rosa losing many lives, and thousands of homes. Residents throughout the effected North Bay need our help as the long recovery begins.

Before I get into those details, I want to cite the consistency, reliability and compassion of the Sonic team here. I have seen a group of people who have been challenged, who have risen to that challenge, supporting each other and our community throughout this disaster. I wrote an open letter to the team, which I encourage you to read, here.

As for Sonic’s network and services, we continued to provide both broadband and telephone services to our communities throughout this crisis, with no widespread outages. The engineering team here has built a solid network and a reliable service. Some news coverage on this can be found here: North Bay internet service provider quickly rebuilds

This disaster has reinforced for me a number a points about household safety and the importance of reliable utility services, and I’ve got a few suggestions and tips for you to consider, which I will include below.

But first, many in this community are now struggling financially, and could use support in this very difficult time. To have lost everything they owned along with their housing is a massive blow for the families in our community. To assist, a local recovery fund has been set up, and if you are able I would encourage you to donate to the fund. All money raised will go directly to those with real needs as a result of this disaster. You can donate now at: https://www.redwoodcu.org/northbayfirerelief

Now, I have a suggestion for your household, no matter where you are located. This disaster highlighted the importance of wireline home telephone service. Many Sonic customers received robocalls which were their only alert to evacuate. Make sure you have the best chance of having reliable telephone service in a crisis by equipping yourself well in advance. It’s easy, and inexpensive, and it could save your life.

To start with, every home should have a wired telephone, because cordless phone systems require power. An inexpensive wired phone can be purchased for about $15, see Amazon here for suggestions. Consider placing it on your bedside table, and don’t be tempted to disable the ringer.

For those with Sonic’s FTTN or Fiber service, backup power is required for voice service during a power outage. Fusion FTTN customers can use a single battery backup unit to power three critical items: the Internet router, the telephone adaptor, and your cordless phone base station. All three of these will generally be located in the same spot, so this is an easy way to keep both your internet and voice telephone service working for hours during a power outage. For those with Sonic Fiber, a battery backup is also required for service during a power outage. If you did not have a battery backup installed during your fiber setup, I would recommend obtaining one.

For both of these applications, consider a small battery backup such as the Back-UPS Connect.

If you have any questions about voice functionality during a power outage, please reply and let us know by writing to to support for assistance.

Thank you for your support of our company and our community as we recover from this disaster.

-Dane Jasper

 

So proud of the Sonic team




An open letter to the 423 members of the Sonic team:

As we close out a catastrophic week here in the North Bay, I wanted to gather my thoughts and share some of them as we go into our weekend.

First I wanted to comment about that coming weekend: our outside plant team has been working hard this week to build a new fiber optic cable route to our customers in the the Fountaingrove business park, where the fiber feed to the North on Old Redwood was destroyed by the fires.

We asked the OSP team to continue work on Saturday in hopes of completing the repairs on Monday or Tuesday of next week – but they volunteered to continue on and work through Sunday, to knock this out, to get those businesses and their employees back to normal work on Monday AM.

I am really touched by that dedication, and my thanks go out to every one of you on that team. Notable also is that this is Sonic’s first self-performed aerial construction. We are doing a rapid build of three miles of new optical plant on an emergency basis, with our own team. Amazing teamwork to see.

I also want to thank all of you for supporting each other in so many ways. I’m hearing from evacuated staff who are staying with their co-workers, I’m seeing kids here playing or watching movies together, and I’m hearing about staff providing clothes, supplies, and emotional support. And thank you also for those who have helped Jen as she has led our efforts to shelter staff and families here at the offices.

I’m also seeing our teams supporting our community and our customers, and I’m very proud when I see those efforts too. Staff have been cooking at local shelters. We loaned out Zander from our geo team to support Calfire’s GIS efforts. Our installers and NOC whipped up a VoIP phone system for the Volunteer center in a day, and then expanded it for them a couple days later. We are supporting businesses that are relocating with expedited fiber network delivery in our business parks. And all of these things have happened without my input or direction: staff and the teams have taken the initiative to assist the community and our customers in all of these ways. Thank you.

I knew all of you were amazing, before these fires. I saw it every day, in the small things, the praise from customers, the loyalty and dedication to our mission, and to our members, and to each other. But this week has really shown me even more clearly what wonderful people you all are. Thank you for that.

This community and members of our Sonic team will have real challenges in front of them in the coming months. Lets stick together and continue to support them. Some have lost their homes, some have parents or family or friends who have lost homes, and some have family who have lost their jobs because businesses have been destroyed.

This is an opportunity for us all, to continue to make a difference for those here at Sonic and those in our community who are only beginning their process of returning from the devastation of these fires. Together we can do it.

-Dane Jasper

 

Sonic tops EFF privacy scorecard




We put our members first, and that’s especially true when it comes to privacy.

As the industry leader on consumer privacy protection, we guard our customer’s data like no one else because we understand that your use of the Internet is private, and that we must ensure our members feel secure.

Recently the Electronic Frontier Foundation published their annual “Who Has Your Back?” report. It marks another year that Sonic has received a perfect rating, our fifth such achievement in the five years that Internet access providers have been ranked by the EFF. Each year we have been awarded a perfect score because we lead the way in industry best practices, refuse to sell our user’s data, and advocate for our customers and their privacy. For us, it’s not complicated: our members deserve an internet service provider who won’t share or sell their personal data.

Leading the way on privacy.

Since day one, our policies have always taken into account the best interests of our members and these policies are especially relevant now. California is currently considering legislation that would install statewide privacy rules after prior federal protections were repealed. This could mean setting a major precedent in terms of where the limits are when it comes to ISPs and the unique access they have to their users’ personal data.

So, what does this proposed legislation mean for Sonic and for our members?

California legislators will soon consider whether or not to enact new rules governing what internet service providers are allowed to do with customer data. These new laws would require:

  1. ISPs to obtain customer permission before using or selling their personal data, permissions that could also be revoked by the consumer at any time. This would give Internet users a real choice about their privacy.
  2. Prevent ISPs from offering incentives or discounts to customers if they opt out of choosing privacy protections, along with prohibiting ISPs from turning away those who choose to have their data protected. This would mean never having to choose between protecting your personal data and receiving service.

This is legislation that could set an enormous precedent in favor of privacy protections for consumers. It presents an opportunity to make a tangible, significant difference, and Sonic is in full support.

With the recent attacks on net neutrality and now your privacy, we want you to make your voice heard. You can write your local representatives and let them know that you are in favor of restoring broadband privacy rules that restrict your broadband provider’s ability to sell your data without your explicit consent. And we’ll do the same. Write a letter to your representative here.

But regardless of the outcome of this legislative effort, Sonic’s stance remains constant: we will never sell your personal data. We won’t change our minds or our protective policies, regardless of whether or not this legislation passes. Sonic has got your back, and that’s something you can count on.

 

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.