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SONIC.NET page on DSLReports
Six Month Rating

Reviews:
bullet 880 reviews (753 good) (62 bad)
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Review by Ulmo See Profile

  • Location: San Jose,Santa Clara,CA
  • Cost: $25 per month (12 month contract)
  • Install: about 10 days
  • Telco party AT&T
Good "Worked with me to get max speed despite bad data in AT&T distance database; livable TOS and services"
Bad "Interacting with support often requires patience (many weeks in many cases)"
Overall "A solid ISP for more discriminating needs with consumer costs"
Pre Sales information:
Install Co-ordination:
Connection reliability:
Tech Support:
Services:
Value for money:
(ratings well below consensus)

Update on March 8, 2009:

Why BroadBandReports/DSLReports does not have a "Billing" category for rating, I do not know, since it is a major topic of ISPs and selection criteria for selecting one. I'll assume that of the ratings, billing affects the following: Services, Value for Money, Pre Sales Information, and Install Co-ordination. Until BroadBandReports fixes this, I can't rate billing directly.

Here is the post I made to ba.internet, and is a continued problem Sonic.net faces:

Sonic.net continues to have a corrupt attitude about billing.

I called them twice to discuss when and what the first billing for a
Business DSL advertised to cost $25 per month would be. Each time,
the hold was over five minutes, and one of the times, the hold was
over 15 minutes. I could not wait that long at that moment.

Now, finally, I find this charge on my PayPal account:

Debit Card Signature Purchase To SONIC.NET INC SANTA ROSA CA Mar. 5, 2009 Pending Details -$158.87 USD $0.00 USD

Hunting further, I find out this:

Sonic.net, Inc.
2260 Apollo Way
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
707.522.1000
support@sonic.net

For:
[...]
_______________________________________________________________________
Description Unit Price Total
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Credit Overpayment, 2008-10-27 1.88cr 1.88cr
Charge DSL - Prorated Basic Business 160.75 160.75
408XXXXXXX from 2009-02-25 to 2009-09-10

Total: 158.87

In other words, this is the third time Sonic.net has overcharged me by
more than fifty dollars without any notice whatsoever, and the second
time they did it for more than 100 dollars. This time, the charge is
going to go against an account that I have to wire money to, at a cost
to me of way over $60, and there is still the possibility it won't be
credited in time to stop this charge, possibly causing a long standing
checking account I have to go bad, and cause me way over $200 in extra
charges and fees.

Actually, I just thought of a way to get some money in my PayPal
account fast for about $10, but it will require me to go ask people
for $210 whom are already pissed off that I got angry about this
happening to me again and said "God Damnit" too loud for their
delicate ears, and I'm not even sure they have $210 to spare.

This is the sort of thing that makes people EXTREMELY mad at
Sonic.net's billing. Yet, every time we discuss these matters with
them, they continue to punt, saying that they don't understand what
the problem is.

I already knew Sonic.net does this, but that's why I called twice to
ask them how much they were going to charge. I made sure to put a big
buffer amount of money in my account so that this wouldn't be a
problem -- $70 at last look. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough.

Sonic.net continues to use corrupt dishonest billing practices. They
do not go by the old methods of contracts and agreements; instead,
they steal, and shrug their shoulders whenever they get called on it.

---

Literally ten minutes later, PayPal posts this information:

Mar. 5, 2009 Authorization To SONIC.NET INC SANTA ROSA CA Completed Details -$158.87 USD
Mar. 5, 2009 Temporary Hold Placed Details -$0.16 USD
Mar. 8, 2009 Temporary Hold Removed Details $0.16 USD
Mar. 8, 2009 Debit Card Backup Funding - Bank Bank Account xxxxxx Completed ... $158.71 USD
Mar. 8, 2009 Cash Back Bonus Completed Details $2.38 USD

Now, there is no way I can get the funds to the bank in time. The
balance in the bank account right now is $71.18 positive; when this
ACH transaction goes through, it will be overdrawn.

IF SONIC.NET HAD INFORMED ME OF THIS CHARGE BEFORE IT HAD ISSUED IT, I
COULD HAVE ARRANGED FOR FUNDS TO BE AVAILABLE, OR EVEN ARRANGED PROPER
TRANSFER. FURTHERMORE, I COULD HAVE PREVENTED NEGATIVE RATINGS ON MY
ACCOUNTS AND OVERAGE FEES. NONE OF THIS WAS AUTHORIZED BY ME FOR
SONIC.NET TO DO!!!

THIS IS THE ONLY INFORMATION I RECEIVED FROM SONIC.NET ABOUT THIS CHARGE:

Date: Thu, March 5, 2009 11:26
Automatic credit-card payment of your prepaid account service has been
processed, and your account had been credited. If you have any questions
regarding your bill or your internet service, please feel free to contact
us.
RECEIPT - THIS IS NOT A BILL
Sonic.net, Inc.
2260 Apollo Way
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
707.522.1000
support@sonic.net
For:
Brad Allen
_______________________________________________________________________
Description Unit Price Total
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Credit Overpayment, 2008-10-27 1.88cr 1.88cr
Charge DSL - Prorated Basic Business 160.75 160.75
408XXXXXXX from 2009-02-25 to 2009-09-10
Total: 158.87

As you can see, the email was Thursday, March 5, THE SAME DAY THE
CHARGE WAS PLACED. If I had happened to check my email once per day,
I could have caught this before today, and transfered enough funds in
my accounts. But I only get to all of my emails once per week or so;
I am a very busy person.

What I want to have is NOTICE THAT A CHARGE WILL HAPPEN BEFORE THEY
PLACE IT. This is something customers have demanded for a long time,
and yet nothing has come forth.

Comcast and AT&T do the same thing. So, I don't feel guilty about
staying with Sonic.net, and seeing them in small claims court for this
and the bank fees it costs me if that's what it takes, and continuing
to use their services if they can provide. They are becoming part of
the monopolies.

===========

I don't think anything has really changed about Sonic.net. This has always been their behavoir.

Sincerely,
Brad Allen

Originally written years ago:

When I first started looking for an ISP in and/or serving Aptos, I wanted one which had normal geek things like decent DNS servers and products, static IP#s, no port blocking, terms of service that let me use it for whatever came up, etc.. I soon found out that Sonic.net was the local big low cost provider that did all of those types of things, and ever since, it has lived up to its reputation in that regard, although with an ever so slightly lower than expected cost and ever so slightly lower than expected quality, well within my range of acceptability. I would definately recommend Sonic.net to anybody who wants a simple ISP to get who has those more discriminating needs like me.

In addition, Sonic.net is a decent broker for AT&T-ASI DSL services. They have a decent working relationship with AT&T-ASI, and you can order things via Sonic.net and have confidence that Sonic.net will manage the relationship with AT&T-ASI, so you don't have to. As long as you can communicate well enough with Sonic.net, everything should be resolved in a matter of time. It does often take persistence and weeks to muddle through some of the more quirky problems, such as manual loop qualifications needed for bad distance data in AT&T-ASI's line database, but Sonic.net will allow you to talk to human beings in the process, allowing a combination of email, telephone and live chat to do so. It is often necessary to contact Sonic.net's support people more than once for the same communication, since sometimes they get lost in the shuffle, but they will get to it if you are polite, patience and persistent. I check once per day and push it forward when I think it might be dropped, and it eventually gets resolved. This is great service for a consumer level product (I'd call it midrange consumer prices, but they do have low cost consumer and high cost business products, too).

I originally became a customer of Sonic.net in January of 2004, when DSL just became available where I was living. I ordered 1.5, but then found out I desired and had use for much more, and that the limit of distance for my situation allowed me to get 6 (6016kbps/608kbps DSL speed), so ordered that as an upgrade. The initial 1.5 took only a few days, and a few months later my 6 arrived, and Sonic.net even fixed a few ATM cell dropping bugs that when fixed gave their DSL customers 100% bandwidth utilization when using TCP over IP when congestion permitted (about 98% of the time at first). In later times, when congestion got more intense, they sort of waited for packets to start dropping while planning to do and did do major expensive upgrades until they were ready for many more years of ample capacity (slowdown congestion which seems to me to be far less than 1% of the time). Lately, they sport a nice 1 gigabit per second fiber ring of San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, then back to San Jose (last leg is backup) which hits their main datacenter in Santa Rosa and many POPs for their interconnections to everyone else (Internet backbones, DSL provider (AT&T-ASI), etc.).

Support often takes patience and persistence to get items resolved, but they are not intractable; they understand English, and will eventually look at your issue as human beings, and solve them when everything has been understood and diagnosed. They will do what is necessary to eventually solve just about any problem, although like I said patience is required (often many polite interactions back and forth for many weeks per issue). I moved and got their 6 DSL again, and then when I moved again I got that downgraded to 1.5, but then I decided I wanted 6 anyway later on when they got 768kbps DSL upload speed. Sonic.net has been proactive in bringing speed products to consumers that SBC/AT&T-ASI offers to Sonic.

The features Sonic.net brings that I make use of are varying levels of port blocking including none for static IP# customers, static IP# options (which I often get), and other things you often don't find other places (IPv6, Multicast, etc., delivered to your DSL). They used to have three news servers: Supernews (they still have that), Newscene (they no longer have that), and their own. They recently upgraded their own USENET "news" servers, but in a hurried untested fasion, which caused them to lose all of their own internal newsgroup history which until then they had years of and many hiccups along the way, but there were backups of other services during this period. Anyway, the features of the new (expensive) news server cluster are capacity, including speed and retention (full speed downloads on DSL lines, moderately long retention times). After some work, their news servers rival even the professional news server companies a bit above entry level (still some of the professionals have more retention and selection, but that can't be helped for a product Sonic.net includes in its midrange consumer ISP prices).

Sonic.net has been chasing extremely low cost consumer price DSL products. For those who wish to start with that, Sonic.net seems like a viable choice.

Lately, Sonic.net has been responding to making better terms for billing, realizing ISP service is something that ought to have a good warning before disconnection if you forget to pay. They also are designing a more logical accounting system which will display charges in a more understandable way (they asked for suggestions in the new design, and I think are designing it now). This is welcome, since until this recent attention in accounting, accounting interaction with their customers always seemed like an afterthought, which is OK for geeks who want more computer guts than wallet guts, but confusing when it came time to do financial stuff.

This is all I can remember in this sitting. I recommend Sonic.net to anyone who wants solid ISP service who does not need the branding of some other big company with their particular value added services; often, those value added services aren't that good or can be duplicated elsewhere, but that is research you will have to do since I haven't done it recently.

Sonic.net is starting to get bigger and meaner, but they haven't lost touch yet. I think they have many years to go with their current intertia, and their goals are to stay as good as they are and possibly become even better, so I have a feeling that when their fly wheel slows down they'll have more fly wheels at full power running and on the way.

UPDATES: No changes. They continue to work hard to be a good quality consumer ISP, and continue to have sucky accounting and billing practices, although one major improvement in the latter category is that they give a reasonable grace period. I still recommend them for most reasons except monetary. Do not expect reasonable monetary policy with your account at Sonic.net, but that they will work with you to try to get your service operating well.

I currently have two accounts with them, one which I wouldn't but I'm stuck in term. Therefore I'm not posting rates; one is top tier (6016kbps/768kbps -- Aptos) and one is bottom tier (768kbps/384kbps -- San Jose -- can't get any faster). My output on one = the input rate on the other (and often send large files just that way).

Update: Now only in San Jose:

In response to another reviewer who was quite mad about automatic unnotified prebilling and lack of contract and price communication, I wrote the following comment, and thought it was appropriate for my review since it has new information (not about the bad billing practices, but about the good experience with billing in doing something that other ISPs would never be able to do):

Those are their billing practices unfortunately; I've already lost one bank account due to them.

However, their madness is mostly (mostly) about charging you without notice and subterfuge of what charges there will be, not making up bogus charges. Talking with billing about issues not related to their bad points is rather pleasant when necessary, and they are often effective and good in that respect. I recently had two accounts with them, each with an attached DSL, and one contract was finished, so for financial reasons (certainly not preference) I had to cancel one DSL connection and one account. Unfortunately, the DSL connection I didn't need (even though I still wanted it) was connected to the account I needed to keep (lots of other services and files), so they nicely (only on the telephone though, no email allowed, but all in understandable native English without accent nor unduly repeating myself, without scripts, and with logic intact and a fairly decent IQ level) first turned off the unneeded DSL connection, then moved the DSL connection I needed to the account I needed to keep, then turned off the extra newly naked account. I had to call for steps 1 (disconnect unneeded DSL) and 3 (turn off naked unneeded account once DSL moved to account I'm keeping), but they were insistent that step 2 (move DSL connection from one account to other account) was in their process without my intervention, which was true. The whole process took about two to two and a half weeks (including about 10 days of waiting for no response for some emails and finally when I sent a repeat email they email replied telling me to do it on the telephone, so once I telephoned it took about a week and most of that was me just being patient and not pestering them), and they were very nice about it, and there were almost no complications or confusions. So, billing is good for many issues, but they definitely have a devil side. Billing is also the department that interfaces with AT&T for ordering your service, so it's best to understand that they handle the quality of your connection at at least one point, so don't get them overly mad at you.

Technical support is indeed better than other services (e.g., real native person advantage), and the services are generally not encumbered (which is the main reason I got and keep them).

I continue to recommend Sonic.net after cautioning anyone that they must be ready to deal with them as a whole (having baby boomer credit cards helps, so I am not lucky in that respect). Even though I read Verizon FiOS forum all the time wishing I would be able to get something like that, I dread having to deal with FiOS's bad sides (legal encumberments, seems like extra step to get static IP#, extra latency of MOCA connection vs. cat5 considerations, forced or not forced to use their router with its spying stuff in it, etc.). If I did have access to FiOS now, I am sure that not only would I get second to highest if not highest tier of FiOS (it's expensive!), that I'd also keep a Sonic.net basic account and perhaps more to keep many of the services I get from them.

I am very excited to see what their pilot for ADSL2 is going to reveal, but they haven't been very bullish about that, but they did jump through a bunch of hoops to do it (becoming a CLEC) so we know they are quite serious.

(next comment is a wish, not a gripe): Now, if only Sonic.net, Inc. would hire me, let me put on gloves and hard hat and vest, and I could start digging through public rights of ways, then I'd be installing fiber networks for them and we could have our own fiber deployment from a mostly fairly decent midsized ISP.

Gripe: they don't offer fiber at rates I can afford.

member for 9 years, 644 visits, last login: 18 days ago
updated 3.5 years ago

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