Category: News

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 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:

Sonic.net Traffic Leaps on Netflix “Arrested” Release

Netflix "Arrested Development" release bumps Sunday/Monday Internet traffic by roughly 40% over normal

Netflix “Arrested Development” release helped bump Sunday/Monday Internet traffic 40%

Netflix’s release of Arrested Development appears to be enjoying some strong uptake. Typically we see normal or slightly reduced Internet traffic on a holiday weekend, but the surge in broadband use on Sunday and Monday was substantial, an almost 40% bump in overall usage.

Compare Saturday the 25th with Sunday the 26th, after the Arrested release. And, strong demand continued Monday (binge viewing?), compare Monday the 27th on the right to the left-most sample, Monday the 20th.

While the reviews of Arrested Development have been mixed, its success certainly could be measured here on our network.

Sweet Sixteen

Sweets from Sift for Sonic.net

Yesterday we celebrated Sonic.net’s sixteenth birthday. Founded in 1994 as “Sonoma Interconnect”, the company has seen a lot of change.

From a eight dialup lines connected to a couple Linux boxes, to a network spanning the state. From a few early adopter customers, to over fifty thousand end-users, including 90 Wholesale ISP partners.

The best part is that we have grown from two founders to a dynamic and intelligent team of one hundred really nice people.

Thank you.

New UPS project update

We are in the process of building a third massive UPS for our datacenter in Santa Rosa, and a number of big parts have recently arrived. This project has been underway for over a year now, and is a really large undertaking.

The new custom engineered breaker panel board arrived this week, and we now have most of the components on site. Construction has begun on the physical mounting of the equipment in our power room. We are excited about the new power delivery capacity that this project will provide, allowing for over double our current power load.

If you’re interested in seeing the images in the gallery below, you can click for a medium sized version, then click on the medium one for full size.

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Want better Internet? Vote Obama.

Fruitless visit to the FCC

Fuitless visit to the FCC


For the past eight years, I have seen a movement away from critical open access, and toward a monopolized Internet. It’s time for change.

In 1996, during the end of Clinton’s first term, congress passed the 1996 Telecom Act, opening voice and data communications to competition. This historic event ushered in early innovators such as Covad Communications, one of the first competitive carriers, and one of the first telecom companies to offer DSL service. Cable, telecom, and ISPs all engaged in years of competition and innovation, resulting in the relatively widespread availability of broadband access and services we see today.

But for the last four years, the FCC has subscribed to a different mandate, and there has been a huge roll-back. It’s a philosophy called the “multi-modal competition model”, and the basic premise is that less competition is good. While it makes little sense, that philosophy has informed key decisions by the FCC that affect the quality, price and innovation of Internet access that consumers can purchase today.

The multi-modal concept simply says that “One choice of Cable Internet versus one choice of DSL Internet is enough competition”, and that eliminating the common carriage wholesale requirements will free these two giants to make investments and grow availability. In other words, if you can get Internet in any form from just two providers, the market will probably take care of itself. There was some thought that wireless and powerline based Internet would also be in the mix, but neither of these have been relevant. So, what we’re left with is a duopoly. Ever seen vibrant innovation or really competitive pricing in a duopoly?

Under this multi-model concept, the FCC first decided that Cable companies would be free from the requirement that telecom carriers had to wholesale services to ISPs. Then, when telecom carriers appropriately pointed out the inequity in that, they eliminated the requirement of them too. This leaves ISPs without the ability to sell services to customers, and hands the entire ISP business to the Cable and Telco firms.

The Telecom Act is intact, but barriers to entry are very high. This takes the typical ISP who buys wholesale services out of the picture, leaving behind only regulated competitive carriers. (Sonic.net has formed a telco carrier for this reason in order to remain a going concern.)

I visited the FCC myself to speak to staff about these issues. It was clear that the democratic minority appointees to the FCC understood the need for competition, but that the issue was being decided by the administration. I think it’s time for a change to that administration.

McCain’s close ties to large telecom firms promise four more years of this broken non-competitive concept at the FCC, and I believe that’s inherently bad for consumers.

Obama on the other hand has addressed the issue head on, and has a stated goal of open access. This includes honoring the principals of network neutrality, and hopefully, vibrant competition again instead of simply giving the Internet as a whole to the monopoly Cable and Telco.

For more on the history of our country’s march backward on broadband competition, see:
FCC v. Brand X
FCC forbearance on Fiber wholesale
FCC forbearance on DSL and Broadband wholesale

Satellite Broadband: Demo it here!

Nearly 4,000 of our current customers cannot obtain terrestrial DSL service today. Unfortunately, the prospects for many of these locations are not good for wired access due to very, very long wire distances.

For these rural homes, we introduced satellite Internet access at the beginning of this year. Today we have have nearly 200 customers online with broadband access via a small satellite dish. Satellite access is also available for business locations, and works well for multiple users.

Satellite access is cost effective and fast – far, far better than dialup. For locations which are rural, and where wired broadband is not available in any form (DSL or cable), it’s a wonderful solution.

That said, one of the most common requests we’ve heard from potential customers is “show me!”

That’s a very reasonable request, and we’ve now set up a demo station at our office here in Santa Rosa so prospective customers can take satellite broadband access for a test drive!

For web browsing, email with big attachments (photos and such), and streaming video and audio such as YouTube, satellite access is wonderful. It makes using the Internet far more fun and productive.

It is important to understand the limitations of satellite. Satellite access is not as fast as wired access, and it won’t work for some applications such as Voice over IP (VOIP), video conferencing and gaming.

Satellite access also has reasonable download and upload limits, a configuration called the “Fair Access Policy” (FAP). This is designed to keep one user from using up too much capacity on the satellite. The FAP limits are large – but you can’t download movies, for example, without hitting the limits. (That’s what satellite TV and on-demand are for!)

If you’ve been thinking of switching from dialup to satellite, please stop by our office and give it a try! If you’ve been stuck on dialup, you will really enjoy it.

Our lobby is open from 8am to 5pm weekdays, and we’re at 2260 Apollo Way in Santa Rosa (map).

P.S.: Remember, if you’ve got a “modem line”, an extra phone line for your PC modem, you’ll no longer need this with satellite, and this can really help offset the monthly cost of satellite access. No phone line is required!

The Governor and the Internet

As reported by CNet today, California’s governor and Attorney General are asking California Internet service providers to help stop the illegal dissemination of child pornography.

The Governor and the Attorney General’s letter was sent to the California ISP Association (CISPA), the largest of a dwindling number of trade groups for Internet service providers. Sonic.net has been a member of CISPA for many years, and I’ve found it to be a wonderful peer group. Until recently, I served as President of CISPA, but I gave up the position recently after serving for a number of years. Please note that I am not writing as an official CISPA response, simply as an involved member.

In the letter (PDF), the Governor asks CISPA members to assume a leadership role in curbing distribution of child pornography.

In fact, for the last decade, all ISPs have been required by law to both report child pornography if it is found, and to remove it promptly if it is reported to us. We have been leaders at the front line of this fight for a long time, alongside and in cooperation with law enforcement..

The Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998 (Sexual Predators Act) requires that an ISP notify a designated law enforcement agency after learning that a website containing child pornography exists on its server. If the ISP willfully fails to report the website, the ISP can be fined. Generally, ISPs cooperate with law enforcement agencies and, upon notification, remove sites that include child pornography.

You can view the act at the Library of Congress and view the bill itself in PDF form at the Government Printing Office.

I applaud the efforts of law enforcement investigators in the many agencies involved and the staff of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) for the work they have done for more than a decade in an effort to eliminate this illegal content from the Internet. (If you encounter illegal content, you can report it at the link above, or by phone to NCMEC at 1-800-843-5678.)

The letter asks CISPA to work with it’s members to “remove child pornography from existing servers and blocking channels, which include newsgroups, used for distributing this material.”

ISPs have a responsibility to remove bad content when it is found, and we will of course continue to do that. It’s the law, and it’s the right thing to do.

Regarding “blocking channels, which include newsgroups”, I think that there is some confusion and misinformation.

Verizon, Sprint and Time Warner Cable have all agreed to eliminate some or all Usenet newsgroups. The Usenet (Wikipedia) is a collection of discussion groups, about 100,000 in all. Millions of postings are made daily, in groups as diverse as soc.politics to rec.bicycling to sci.math. Also included are groups such as alt.adoption, alt.atheism, alt.gothic, and alt.tv.simpsons.

The root of the problem is that Verizon, Sprint and Time Warner Cable did NOT comply with the law. From the NY Times:

The agreements resulted from an eight-month investigation and sting operation in which undercover agents from Mr. Cuomo’s office, posing as subscribers, complained to Internet providers that they were allowing child pornography to proliferate online, despite customer service agreements that discouraged such activity. Verizon, for example, warns its users that they risk losing their service if they transmit or disseminate sexually exploitative images of children.

After the companies ignored the investigators’ complaints, the attorney general’s office surfaced, threatening charges of fraud and deceptive business practices. The companies agreed to cooperate and began weeks of negotiations.

These service providers failed to respond as the law requires to reports of illegal content which was posted, reportedly in one of 88 Usenet newsgroups which law enforcement found illegal content in.

Now, as a result of their failure to adhere to the law, they have settled with NY’s attorney general by agreeing to drop some or all of the Usenet. In Sprint’s case, they’re dropping the more than 18,000 alt.* groups (the largest section in volume by far), along with many other sections of the Usenet. Time Warner is just going to drop the Usenet entirely – all 100,000 groups.

There’s a bit of a sub-plot here. Offering Usenet access is something that every ISP used to include with the service, but more and more have moved away from it as the web has become a more dominant use for Internet access. “The Usenet” isn’t a site, it’s a service, provided by ISPs, and it costs ISPs a lot of money to keep it running. And, they can shut it down for their users. It has been reported that just a small minority of typical ISP end-users know about Usenet or participate in the groups, so no one will notice, right?

Sprint, Verizon and Time Warner are playing Br’er Rabbit here. Br’er is a classic trickster, saying “Oh, no, please don’t throw me in the briar patch!” in order to escape his foes. In this case, these provider’s briar patch is simply an escape from the costs and overhead of offering Usenet discussion groups, plus reduction in fines applicable due to their failure to act as the law requires. As a bonus, they also get some great press for slaying this paper tiger!

And as for Sprint and Verizon, who will still continue to carry some groups – the bad guys will simply start posting illegal content to a different newsgroup. I can’t imagine that “on topic” posting and obedience to a newsgroup’s charter is these people’s top priority. Do common thugs comply with our wishes for how they’d behave? Instead, they’ll tuck it away in obscure places like rec.crafts.rubberstamps. (If your ISP still provides Usenet, click for news://rec.crafts.rubberstamps/ or instead, use the Google Groups gateway)

I certainly welcome further input on this issue from the Governor’s office and the Attorney General. We are all trying to accomplish the same thing.

That said, I don’t think eliminating 88, or 18,000, or 100,000 Usenet discussion groups is going to be productive in addressing the real issue. The problem will just move to another part of the Usenet, or another part of the Internet.

The real answer is continued close and rapid collaboration between law enforcement and Internet service providers in order to track down the producers and consumers of this illegal material.

Yelpers rate Sonic.net five out of five

Click to visitWe got a nice letter in the mail from Yelp today (and a window decal), telling us we’ve got 16 Yelp reviews and a five out of five star rating!

Everyone on our team here works really hard to deliver unique and amazing service to our customers, so it’s very gratifying to hear the kind words. Here are a few excerpts – click the Yelp logo to read more.

“THE best in the whole universe! Ok, so I may be getting a little too enthusiastic about Sonic.net, but I’ve been abused by so many other, nasty companies like AOL and Earthlink…you understand, don’t you? …” Kristina R., San Francisco, CA

“If you’re a broadband user living in the Bay Area you should sign up with Sonic.net automatically. I’ve been with them for over 2 yrs. and they’re great. …” Rick K., San Jose, CA

“I can’t say enough good things about Sonic.net. EVERY time I call I speak with a LIVE person almost immediately. EVERY time I call they fix my problem quickly. Their customer service people are patient, polite, and knowledgeable – they’ve even helped me troubleshoot problems that didn’t end up having anything to do with them. …” Loring S., Pacifica, CA

“If you are looking for a good ISP, I HIGHLY recommend Sonic. No humour in this review because I am so dead serious when I say Sonic is the best ISP around. They know their stuff and are good peeps. …” Cathy N., San Jose, CA

Thanks Yelpers!

-Dane

Best of the North Bay Award

We have been very happy to be repeatedly recognized as Sonoma’s “Best ISP” by The Bohemian. We were described as “Sympathetic and serene”. The BoHo wrote “They’re my ISP too, and I must confess to a deep and rigorous love.” Great to hear! They went on to say we impress them by consistently “…by making everything right. In minutes. As if by magic. Or by fairies.”

Thanks folks for voting for us, we’ve consistently won this award, and it really validates the hard work we and the fairies do here.