Month: July 2011

Don’t ban the box

FTTH cabinet in Sebastopol, CA

Last week the San Francisco Board of Supervisors reached a decision on proposed new cabinet infrastructure to be deployed by AT&T to deliver TV service in the city. The Board correctly concluded that the proposed utility cabinets in the existing utility right-of-way do not require an impact study under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and also exempted them from the city’s underground placement requirements.

Utility boxes can be unsightly. Our FTTx cabinets are generally small, and some of them can be mounted on poles, well above the reach of vandals and outside the flow of foot traffic. The image to the right shows an FTTH cabinet which is pole mounted.

Some though are larger and must be mounted on the ground, and when this is required, we are sensitive to the potential impact they have on sidewalk, foot traffic and views.

That said, we hope to assure equal treatment for our own infrastructure, which we plan to deploy in San Francisco.

In a recent letter to the Board, I wrote:

“… if the Board of Supervisors determines that it will affirm the exemption from environmental review, and from the city’s policy of underground placement, Sonic Telecom respectfully requests that the Board at the same time confirm that it will apply the same exemption standard to Sonic Telecom when it applies to install its own surface utility boxes adjacent to AT&T’s boxes, to permit Sonic Telecom to provide its own competitive telecommunications and data services.”

The expanded availability of new competitive services is important in any city. We hope that San Francisco will welcome on equal footing as we expand.

Moving Outside: From ISP to OSP

Placing duct for Fiber-to-the-Home

This month celebrates seventeen years of providing Internet access, and we celebrate a major milestone: our first step outside.

An an Internet Service Provider (ISP), beginning in 1994 with dialup Linux shell access, we used conventional phone lines from Pacific Bell and 16.8kbps modems to provide access. When “X2” 56kbps dialup arrived in 1997, these lines upgraded to digital ISDN BRI and then later large PRI lines.

Then, with the launch of DSL at 1.5Mbps in 1998, we switched to large Pacific Bell T3 ATM circuits for customer aggregation, and over the years DSL gradually evolved from 1.5Mbps up to 6.0Mbps, and from the Central Offices whice serve 60% to 80% of premises to Remote Terminals which allowed nearly everyone to obtain DSL.

The circuits got larger and larger, and our reach grew across California. In 2005 we opened our DSL aggregation network to serve other ISPs, and today there are seventy Internet Service Providers that utilize our Open DSL Network to deliver AT&T ADSL1 broadband to consumers in California and beyond.

But back then all of the infrastructure was ensconced in our datacenters in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. We relied upon AT&T (formerly known as SBC California, and before that Pacific Bell) to connect us to from there to the customer premise, using their ATM backhaul network and DSL Access Multiplexers (DSLAMs). It has been a good partnership for us, for them, and for our mutual customers.

In 2006 we took the next step and became a telephone company ourselves, and began to build our own “Inside Plant”, in the carrier business known as “ISP”, not to be confused with “Internet Service Provider”. Inside Plant (ISP) is the electronics in the Central Office, the DSLAMs, Ethernet aggregation and voice switching. Inside plant equipment connects to the outside plant copper loops, which are a shared resource for all telephone companies under the 1996 Telecom Act, the law which created competition in local telephone service.

This brought us from being a conventional ISP (Internet Service Provider), to a carrier ourselves, building our own “ISP” (InSide Plant), and a big step closer to customers. With the construction of this next-generation facilities-based carrier network, in 2008 we launched our enterprise FlexLink Carrier Ethernet products, and in 2010 the innovative Fusion Broadband+Phone service. This brought us out of the isolated datacenters, instead building new equipment into every telephone central office, and it has delivered fast, exciting broadband products at great prices, plus our own voice telephone services too.

Now we have taken the next step, building our first OSP: OutSide Plant. The outside plant is the part of the network which is on the poles and in the ground; the cables, splices, cabinets and terminals. And, just as we built the newest DSL and Ethernet technology into our inside plant, we are building a cutting-edge OSP network: Fiber-optic cable to every home we pass.

This has been an interesting process for me, and our amazing team over the years. While many early-days ISPs have consolidated, sold, ceased business or simply shifted away from the business of providing access, we are committed to continued innovation as an Internet Access Provider.

With our continued partnership with AT&T, plus our facilities as a CLEC, and new construction of Fiber outside plant, we are moving onward and upward.

Customer Support — Job Fair. is looking for several motivated individuals to join our Customer Support team. Our Customer Support representatives are the front line of technical Support and residential sales. You will be responsible for logically troubleshooting with our customers, over the phone and through email, to ensure Internet, web and email access through multiple types of broadband and connectivity services.

As a Customer Support representative, we believe you will be the most qualified representative to discuss and sell residential services to potential users. Because of this, Customer Support representatives must be technologically savvy, exhibit exceptional communication skills and be motivated to provide the best customer service possible in many unique situations.

Customer Support is available from 6am-11pm, Monday-Friday and 8am-10pm, Saturday and Sunday. We are seeking full-time employees and will typically work around most schedules.

Familiarity with both Windows and Apple OS
Basic knowledge of networking and dial-up hardware
Working understanding of common internet browsers and mail client
Excellent verbal and written communication abilities

Hands on experience with broadband services, Linux shell and networking skills are beneficial, but not required.

To Apply
Fill out an application and a short quiz at our headquarters at 8am on Sunday July 31st. At 9:30 we will post the list of applicants we will be interviewing. Interviews will take place on site throughout the day.
2260 Apollo Way
Santa Rosa, CA 95407

Health, Dental and Vision Plans
Educational Benefits
High Speed Internet Access
Dog Friendly Workplace
On-Site Gym
All You can Eat Popcorn
Casual Work Environment