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Sonic.net plans 1Gbps fiber service to San Francisco homes

The small ISP has applied for permission to build fiber to homes across the city

By Stephen Lawson
December 14, 2011 08:35 PM ET

IDG News Service - Internet service provider Sonic.net unveiled an ambitious plan on Wednesday to build a fiber network that would reach most residences and small businesses in San Francisco with 1G bps Internet access.

The so-called fiber-to-the-home network would be the first such citywide system in San Francisco and would dramatically exceed the current residential speeds offered by AT&T and Comcast, the city's major ISPs. It could draw avid interest in the city, which is a hub for Internet startups and home to many Silicon Valley technology workers. But such a project would pose daunting costs and regulatory hurdles for any service provider, let alone a small operator such as Sonic.

"I'll certainly concede that it's an ambitious project," said Dane Jasper, CEO and co-founder of Sonic, which has just 60,000 subscribers. Those customers are spread across 13 states, but most are in the San Francisco Bay Area, he said.

The company's main business is offering DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service over leased copper lines, but earlier this year it began rolling out a fiber network in Sebastopol, California, that is similar to the one planned for San Francisco. There, on a trial network reaching 700 homes, it offers 100M bps unlimited broadband for US$39.95 per month and 1G bps for $69.95 per month. Both plans include voice service for one or two lines with unlimited domestic calls. Sonic also has been selected by Google to build a fiber network for a neighborhood near Stanford University.

Sonic plans to offer similar plans in San Francisco. It has no plans to serve large businesses with the network, nor to offer TV, Jasper said.

Sonic announced on Wednesday it has applied for permits to build the San Francisco network, which would start with a pilot area of 2,000 homes in the largely residential Sunset district and expand over the course of five years to cover the city of about 800,000 residents. The company hopes to begin work next year. The trial will require one utility box, and a full deployment would require an estimated 188, Jasper said.

The last carrier that tried to roll out a significant new network in San Francisco was AT&T, which proposed in 2007 to deploy its U-Verse high-speed Internet and TV service there. Some parts of the city are now covered by U-Verse, but much of the project is tied up in a legal dispute over whether an environmental impact report is required to understand the overall impact of the estimated 728 utility boxes it would require.

Led by an organization called San Francisco Beautiful, neighborhood groups raised concerns about AT&T's plan to install the boxes on sidewalks. A lawsuit over the proposal is expected to be heard next year. San Francisco Beautiful said it has not yet taken a position on Sonic's proposal.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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