Sonic Internet

A disclosure: I am using affiliate links and I benefit if you sign up to Sonic Internet service through them. Make of that what you will, but know that I have been a decades-long (off and on) customer and Sonic advocate since well before any affiliate benefits existed. 

That said, Sonic recently rolled out a holiday-time referral program and it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about why I use and recommend their services (also you get a free month if you sign up ????).

History

Briefly, my dad was a computer programmer and had Internet service relatively early compared to the rest of the world. We were one of Sonic’s first customers, as I recall, back in the mid 90’s. Even that far back they had great customer service, good prices, and some of the best service offerings you could get at the time (you know, blazing-fast 28.8 kbit/s!).

Fast forward more than 20 years and they now offer up to gigabit (bi-directional!) connections for consumers, and 10 gig for businesses. They are still a relatively small, local ISP serving primarily Northern California, and the reach of their gigabit service is comparatively small (concentrated in the Bay Area). But the more people that sign up, the further they can take it, and as more and more of our lives move online I think many of us will reasonably need such a connection in the not-too-distant future.

So over the past 25 years I’ve maintained Sonic service when it was available in speeds that were anywhere close to the competition, which was often. In the early days they were one of the first to bring DSL services to the consumer at a reasonable price, and for a while I was the fastest on my block. At times I’ve had to move to Comcast simply due to the limitations of DSL and other copper line products, which sadly is what Sonic has been limited to in many areas for a long time. But I always longed to return, Comcast always let me down, with service quality and uptime, or terrible support, or customer hostile policies, or something else. And now that I’ve been able to come back it’s been great so far. 

So here are the reasons I recommend Sonic, in no particular order. Also, they might give me a 10 gig connection if I refer the most people. ????

Clear, simple service offerings

Unlike Comcast, Sonic offers a small, clear, and useful set of services that are clearly differentiated from each other. They do offer basic TV bundles, but they are Internet-first, and the TV bundles are really simple to understand, if you want that sort of thing. In general you’ll have 1-3 Internet offerings available to your location, clearly differentiated by speed and not much else. With Comcast and even AT&T that’s usually not the case, even if you do manage to find the Internet-only service page. Not to mention the frequent hidden fees, etc. 

Now to be clear some of Sonic’s services have contract periods and associated discounts, and there are government-mandated fees that are calculated later in the service order process. I’d like them to present all that more up front where possible (perhaps they already do the best they can, but it does seem to me it could be improved). 

Excellent customer service and tech support

Their techs actually know what they’re talking about. Even the sales staff has decent technical knowledge! And the techs genuinely enjoy troubleshooting problems, off-script, just chasing down weird problems in a helpful and sometimes even fun way. Much of the time when I hang up the phone after a Sonic support call (which admittedly is infrequent), I’m a lot happier than when I started. That was seldom – if ever – the case with Comcast (except when I cancelled ????).

Gigabit (is the future)

In the past Sonic has, I think, given customers pretty much the best speeds they can in each direction (download/upload), within the limits of the technologies they had available to provide the connection, which were mostly older copper phone lines. But the new Gigabit connections are different. This is fiber straight into your home, so there are no technology limits for how fast it can go. And Sonic, being customer-friendly, doesn’t limit you – at all. Where Comcast’s gigabit service is 1000mbit download but a mere 35mbit/s upload, Sonic offers you a full bi-directional, 1000mbit/s in each direction. Not only that, but no data cap! Comcast’s is 1TB and their gigabit service costs $105/mo, where Sonic’s is $60/mo.

I think this kind of speed is something that most people see as overkill. But the more our entertainment and other services move online, and the higher quality our media gets, the more valuable it will be. And as online data storage becomes cheaper and cheaper, and our own generation of new media (photos, videos) grows, we’ll all want the ability to back that data up as fast as possible. Even casual photographers these days can generate gigabytes of photos a week, and with a slower upload speed or monthly transfer limits it can be really limiting. If you’re not hitting those walls yet, you probably will be soon. Take a look at the speed test above and think about how long it would take you on your current connection to backup a terabyte or two. Better yet, take their speed test and see!

No data limits

I mentioned this above, but I’ll just repeat: Sonic has no data limits or caps, in either direction. The gigabit service is 1000mbit for both download *and* upload. That’s unprecedented. I can now upload gigabytes of photos to Flickr or Google Photos or whatever in seconds instead of hours. It’s pretty amazing. I can even host a web server at my house and Sonic will never complain that I’m using too much bandwidth.

Equipment

Sonic has always provided good equipment and supported it well. You’ll get a higher quality, more manageable and customizable wifi router than Comcast or AT&T provides. And if you don’t already know this, Comcast by default provides free Internet to any other Xfinity customers within reach of your wifi. In practice this means that anyone who knows someone who has Xfinity probably can get on your wifi, use your bandwidth, etc. This slows down your connection, at the least, and also presents potential security risks.

Additionally, I’ve just learned that Sonic has a new partnership with a mesh router company called Eero and now for $3/mo more than the standard router you can have wider coverage with a 2 (or more) unit setup. As far as I know they’re the only ISP offering this on equipment rental. Obviously you may prefer to own your equipment, and mesh systems seem to start at $250, but for anyone who prefers a Sonic-managed and supported system this is a pretty nice option to have, and unique to their service.

Support for net neutrality

Sonic has been a long-time proponent of net neutrality. If you know me and you’re reading this, you hopefully already know what that is and why it’s good.

Privacy

Sonic has earned the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s highest marks for privacy in past evaluations. They delete most access/IP logs after 2 weeks, which is much shorter than a majority of other ISPs, they let you as a customer know about government data requests that pertain to you. 

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

Along the same lines, Sonic provides a free VPN for their customers. This helps prevent people from snooping on your connection when you’re on an open wifi network. It’s not a guarantee of privacy, but it’s better than going without! So if you’re out working in that cafe and you need to login to your bank? Well… ideally don’t, but if you really have to, do it with a proxy. 😉

Dual Gigabit?

I also recently learned that Sonic will give you a 2nd gigabit connection if so desired. It ultimately ends up costing about twice as much as the comparatively affordable single gigabit connection. It’s notable to me because this actually allows you to host a high-speed web server out of your home, one that could potentially compete with a major hosting provider due to the speed. Obviously this is not for everyone, but for entrepreneurs it has the potential to be a major boon, as long as you have a bit of technical knowledge to setup your own server environment.

Check Yo Self

And here we are, at the end of my gushing commentary on a damn Internet provider. Yes, I really do like them. They’re legitimately great. Perfect? No, no. But very good for an ISP.

So take a look and see what Sonic can get to your house, eh? If it’s anywhere close to your current Internet offering in speed, give it a try, you just might end up with better support and more privacy, and if you’re really lucky the gigabit service is available to you, in which case get on it!.

And hey, if you sign up through my affiliate link you get the first month free, which is cool too. Right?

https://www.sonic.com/offer/XR001R