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NormanS
I gave her time to steal my mind away
Premium,MVM
join:2001-02-14
San Jose, CA
kudos:11
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
·Pacific Bell - SBC

Modem rental?

What if I have a Sonic.net-issue modem on an existing account, and want to sign up a new account at a different address? I was planning on leaving the SBC-issue SpeedStream 4100 at the old premises (homeowner is keeping the account; SS4100 is not slower than ZTE831), and bringing the ZTE831 to the new premises.
--
Norman
~Oh Lord, why have you come
~To Konnyu, with the Lion and the Drum


klui

join:2001-11-08
Castro Valley, CA
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET

What I like about Dane's responses at
»corp.sonic.net/status/2012/06/28···ipment/:
Dane and John Fitzgerald stated the rental policy was done to pay for the cost of the modem pool and support infrastructure.

What I do not like:
1. Disclosure of the new policy approximately a little over 1 business day before the change
2. Lack of a modem purchase option. I personally would not mind if there were an option to pay for the modem at its cost along with some support cost over a period of around x months.

I wonder what this policy implies for those who will get fiber for new rollouts. Will they be subjected to a rental fee for their CPE? What is Sonic's policy if someone who is on legacy DSL and they can get Fusion? Will they be subject to the rental fee?



DaneJasper
Sonic.Net
Premium,VIP
join:2001-08-20
Santa Rosa, CA
kudos:9
reply to NormanS

said by NormanS:

What if I have a Sonic.net-issue modem on an existing account, and want to sign up a new account at a different address? I was planning on leaving the SBC-issue SpeedStream 4100 at the old premises (homeowner is keeping the account; SS4100 is not slower than ZTE831), and bringing the ZTE831 to the new premises.

If you sign up for new service at a new address, while keeping the existing service at the existing address, the new location is a new signup, so it would be included in the equipment program.


not_happy

@supermicro.com
reply to NormanS

Not very happy with the recent pricing change by charging additional $6.50 for modem rental. I understand the cost of support. However, Sonic differentiate themselves from other big players becuase of the great original pricing, support, and by not being like the "rest". Now, people are starting to see Sonic is just like any company! First everything was great when it was small. As company grow, things will change and it's not GOOD change.

Anyways, the company should give customers the option to purchase an 'approve' modem rather than charging a ridiculoous price. $6.50 x 24 month = $156, 36 month= $225...you get the point. Was happy with their service up until this point. Now, I may have to look elsewhere and have all the people I referred to do the switching as well. They may hate me for the switching back and forth but we rather stick to what we have if the pricing doesn't benefit us much. The ONLY reason of switching to SONIC was because they were different at first.



mixedfeeling

@noisetor.net
reply to NormanS

Recently, there has been a lot of heated debate on this topic, so I hope to offer my two cents.

While I understand that it isn't free to provide support, I believe there are more preferable alternatives that can help deal with the cost.

First, you can begin by making the modem rental optional. It's obvious that there are a lot of Sonic.net customers who are upset at the new policy that makes modem rental mandatory. To alleviate the cost of providing support, you can simply provide support only to people who participate in the rental program.

A natural extension of the rental program would be to allow the model you are renting to customers to be purchased outright. The additional costs of providing support for this option, if any, would be minimal, because the modem you are selling would be identical to the modems you are renting (and supporting).

If, as I believe, Sonic.net is the excellent support company that it is reputed to be, you can also go a step further by providing a list of compatible modems (as other ISPs like DSL Extreme have done) on your wiki and allowing people who own such a modem to opt out of the rental program. Would I expect Sonic.net to provide support for modems on such a list? No, not at all. But I honestly believe people who are knowledgeable enough to buy their own modems don't really need Sonic.net's help in setting it up. Some basic information on the wiki would suffice. In the worst case, they can simply call the manufacturer they bought the modem from and request help from them instead of Sonic.net.

In summary, I believe there are feasible ways to deal with the cost of providing support for modems other than forcing rentals on users who don't want them. I still believe that Sonic.net is an excellent company that cares about its users and stands up for them, but even the best companies make mistakes. I hope Sonic.net eventually comes to realize that this mandatory modem rental policy was a mistake and takes the actions it deems necessary to once again distinguish itself from other ISPs.



DaneJasper
Sonic.Net
Premium,VIP
join:2001-08-20
Santa Rosa, CA
kudos:9

said by mixedfeeling :

First, you can begin by making the modem rental optional. It's obvious that there are a lot of Sonic.net customers who are upset at the new policy that makes modem rental mandatory. To alleviate the cost of providing support, you can simply provide support only to people who participate in the rental program.

A natural extension of the rental program would be to allow the model you are renting to customers to be purchased outright. The additional costs of providing support for this option, if any, would be minimal, because the modem you are selling would be identical to the modems you are renting (and supporting).

If, as I believe, Sonic.net is the excellent support company that it is reputed to be, you can also go a step further by providing a list of compatible modems (as other ISPs like DSL Extreme have done) on your wiki and allowing people who own such a modem to opt out of the rental program. Would I expect Sonic.net to provide support for modems on such a list? No, not at all. But I honestly believe people who are knowledgeable enough to buy their own modems don't really need Sonic.net's help in setting it up. Some basic information on the wiki would suffice. In the worst case, they can simply call the manufacturer they bought the modem from and request help from them instead of Sonic.net.

I don't think there are "a lot of Sonic.net customers who are upset at the new policy", because the new policy doesn't apply to them. They are welcome to continue to use the equipment they already have. There are some who have said they won't recommend us to people in future, generally on grounds of the higher cost - or simply the principal of the un-bundling of equipment cost as a line item.

There may however be prospective new customers who choose not to buy service because they don't like the new higher cost, but that remains to be seen. It's early, but so far in this first week of July, sign-ups are continuing at a typical rate.

To respond to some of your points:

Allowing purchase of the equipment would not accomplish the goal of making the equipment our responsibility.

The outcome of us owning the equipment is that we can now rapidly and at no cost to the customer advance-ship a replacement if we ever suspect that the connection issue might be equipment - so we don't end up spending a lot of the customer's time and energy agonizing over whether their old modem is the problem, or if it's the copper loop, and should we roll a truck to test at the MPOE (which might cost the customer something if their equipment turned out to be the source of the trouble), are they going to go buy a new modem that might solve the problem (or it might be the loop and NOT the equipment), etc. Having Sonic.net be responsible for delivery of working service including equipment is a win for our customers, in my opinion.

Finally, a list of compatible or recommended products wouldn't be products that were tied into our troubleshooting and provisioning system. Part of this equipment effort is to bring our support into the modern age, bringing the modem into the support portal using TR-069. Larger carriers have had this for years, and without it some of what we do is guesswork, or asking the customer to do things themselves. With a TR-069 ACS, we can do remote diagnostics on the device itself. For example, the system alerts if there is a missing filter on premise, or if there is interference in 2.4Ghz that is affecting the WiFi from the device. A customer supplied retail device wouldn't be similarly tied in to our troubleshooting management platform.

Fundamentally this product change is a cost increase for new customers, but it also is delivery of a better modem/router/firewall than we have ever supplied, plus tie-in with support to shorten the technical troubleshooting process.

The goal is reliable service delivery at the lowest possible cost to customers, and equipment uniformity is part of that goal. While in the near term this is a cost increase, I'm hopeful that the long term result will be a reduction in support costs - costs which bear upon our ability to be aggressive in our overall pricing.

I believe that the benefits will be large, and I'm hopeful that customers will continue to sign up despite the higher cost today.

-Dane Jasper
CEO
Sonic.net


DaneJasper
Sonic.Net
Premium,VIP
join:2001-08-20
Santa Rosa, CA
kudos:9
reply to not_happy

said by not_happy :

Was happy with their service up until this point. Now, I may have to look elsewhere and have all the people I referred to do the switching as well. They may hate me for the switching back and forth but we rather stick to what we have if the pricing doesn't benefit us much. The ONLY reason of switching to SONIC was because they were different at first.

It sounds like you may have misunderstood the news.

As a current customer, you are not subject to this new equipment fee and modem offering. You, and those you've referred in the past, are welcome to keep using the gear you have, so no cost applies to you.


leibold
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-09
Sunnyvale, CA
kudos:10
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET

How does Sonic ownership of the CPE (for those new customers with the monthly modem rental fee) effect those customers that transition from copper Fusion to fiber optic Fusion (like currently in Sebastopol and soon in parts of San Francisco) ?
If this new modem rental fee allows Sonic to absorb the cost of converting those customers (which definitely requires replacement of the CPE) then perhaps it may be a bit more acceptable to some (knowing that sooner or later there will be a technology change in the Fusion product that they are receiving).
--
Got some spare cpu cycles ? Join Team Helix or Team Starfire!


klui

join:2001-11-08
Castro Valley, CA
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET

1 edit
reply to DaneJasper

said by DaneJasper:

The outcome of us owning the equipment (...)

This is actually a double-edged sword. While the benefits of ISP-owned equipment are clear to me, I'm also aware of its downsides. Witness what happened to people who owns Cisco EA2700, EA3500, and EA400 routers recently--mandated upgrades took away features people felt were useful. While the Cisco fiasco didn't happen to Cisco-owned equipment, with a modem rental, customers have no choice but to accept that type of control. Before long, subscribers will either be locked out from tweaking their hardware or be charged a fee if their changes are deemed "disruptive."

You specifically listed several features that require the modem/router not be in bridge mode so people who wish to use those features are indeed stuck with CPE that they do not totally control.

EDIT: grammer +
The reason why I switched to Sonic was it did not try to control their subscribers' behavior too much as the big corporations did with data caps. Imposing the rental requirement goes against that subscriber-friendly policy. Sure, this decision does not affect me, but I am keeping an eye on what other types of policies Sonic imposes in the coming weeks/months.

For the record, I really appreciate the insights Dane and John shared how additional cost of these modems drove the policy. I hope Dane, you will answer the questions regarding how this policy was influenced by your fiber rollout and its CPE as Leibold appears to be interested in that as well.


DaneJasper
Sonic.Net
Premium,VIP
join:2001-08-20
Santa Rosa, CA
kudos:9
reply to leibold

said by leibold:

How does Sonic ownership of the CPE (for those new customers with the monthly modem rental fee) effect those customers that transition from copper Fusion to fiber optic Fusion (like currently in Sebastopol and soon in parts of San Francisco) ?

Yes, Fusion Fiber requires a different CPE, and the equipment for this is shifting too. Today we are simply providing those users with a temporary Adtran CPE, a basic bridge from GPON to 4xGig-E. This device doesn't deliver the POTS voice service, we're currently still delivering that on copper, which is a bit backwards, but it allowed us to defer some integration.

The near-future will bring a new CPE for Fusion Fiber which is both Gigabit capable and which delivers the voice service. And yes, customers on copper who are switching to fiber will simply have their equipment swapped.

So yes - this is one other small benefit of equipment rental, it's upgraded as the technology in the network improves.

-Dane

klui

join:2001-11-08
Castro Valley, CA
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET

said by DaneJasper:

Yes, Fusion Fiber requires a different CPE

...

So yes - this is one other small benefit of equipment rental, it's upgraded as the technology in the network improves.

Could you share what the monthly rental rate is for the fiber CPE?


mixedfeeling

@torland.me
reply to DaneJasper

Whether or not a policy applies to a customer is not necessarily the only way that customers might be upset. For example, while I personally would not be affected by the new policy, I oppose it on principle. I would be selfish, not only to everyone's detriment, but ultimately to my own, if I simply took the attitude of not caring about something that didn't affect me at the moment.

At the same time, even if there is a decrease in sign-ups, it may be premature to conclude that the decrease is (or isn't) a result of the new policy. Perhaps not enough people are aware of the policy yet; when I mentioned that a lot of customers were upset, I was simply referring to the numerous replies to the news thread here on DSL Reports (posted by Karl Bode), which is the only place I see it clearly and explicitly posted at the moment. Besides, customer retention isn't the only way to gauge satisfaction. I am displeased by your policy, and I know it will affect any future people I might refer to Sonic.net, but at least at the moment, it is outweighed by other factors. For example, your recent recognition by the EFF has not escaped my attention. I am here not because I don't care about your policy, but in spite of it.

I appreciate the fact that you personally responded to some of the points that I made. It's not with every ISP that you find the CEO personally replying to users' concerns. I think you are correct that there are benefits to ISP owned equipment, but I don't think they can outweigh the virtues of free choice. I believe it is important for customers to choose what they purchase, even if it sometimes ends up costing them more, both financially and in other ways. The cost of paying for a truck or the difficulty in diagnosing a modem both fall are just two more examples that you yourself gave.

Let's look at it another way. If I bought a computer, but chose not to purchase an extended warranty, then I will be responsible for any parts that need to be replaced after my manufacturer's warranty runs out. More important than the money I lost, however, is the fact that I freely and willingly made the decision not to purchase the warranty. Sometimes I will be lucky; other times not as much, but it was my calculation and decision to make. Forcing a service on users that do not desire it, especially on those who are willing to accept all the costs of owning their own modem, detracts from their ability to choose the type of service they want. Sonic.net strikes me as the type of ISP that gives users far more freedom of choice; it is in part this freedom that I pay for when I choose to use Sonic.net instead of a cheaper ISP.

There certainly could be problems with having a list of compatible or recommended products, but many of those problems could be solved if you allowed users to purchase their modem instead of renting it from Sonic.net. If indeed you are able to run such detailed diagnostics on the modem, shouldn't that alleviate many of the problems you described such as "agonizing over whether their old modem is the problem, or if it's the copper loop, and should we roll a truck to test at the MPOE"? If such detailed diagnostics are in fact possible, then you should be able to ship the user a new modem just as easily if you determine that the modem is at fault, provided that it's still under warranty of course.

Perhaps some customers will benefit from having a modem/router/firewall, but other customers already own their own routers or have their own configurations that they don't wish to change. And again, these customers can always go to the companies they bought the devices from if they experience trouble. If these users are willing to accept less support from Sonic.net as the price of their freedom, then I believe they should be given their choice. Personally, I would insist on using my own equipment, even if it means that I have to do a bit more work.

Certainly the cost of the new policy is higher, but I think it would be an oversight to believe that the only type of cost to users is in the monthly price. If any users disagree and believe that renting a modem will benefit them, financially or otherwise, then they are free to do so, but it shouldn't mean that every new customer should have to follow them.



NormanS
I gave her time to steal my mind away
Premium,MVM
join:2001-02-14
San Jose, CA
kudos:11
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
·Pacific Bell - SBC

1 recommendation

reply to DaneJasper

said by DaneJasper:

I don't think there are "a lot of Sonic.net customers who are upset at the new policy", because the new policy doesn't apply to them.

Maybe not a lot, but due to medical circumstances I will not be able to return to the premises where I had been living. I set that homeowner up with Sonic.net, firing AT&T in the process. Later this summer I expect to be in a new place, and looking for Internet service. This would make me a "new" Sonic.net customer, if I chose Sonic.net. There will be other options, and this new policy will give pause to reconsider them.
--
Norman
~Oh Lord, why have you come
~To Konnyu, with the Lion and the Drum

bigboy

join:2000-12-04
Palo Alto, CA

Actually, that's not what Dane said - if you're move your account, I think you're still a current customer.



NormanS
I gave her time to steal my mind away
Premium,MVM
join:2001-02-14
San Jose, CA
kudos:11
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
·Pacific Bell - SBC

said by bigboy:

Actually, that's not what Dane said - if you're move your account, I think you're still a current customer.

I will not be moving the account. I will be leaving the landlord's account with her; I just won't be a tenant there, so will have to sign up a new account.
--
Norman
~Oh Lord, why have you come
~To Konnyu, with the Lion and the Drum


not_happy

@supermicro.com
reply to NormanS

same here. We are looking into moving into bigger house a few blocks away so I will be considered as "new" customer. In addition, one of my brother's ATT 1 yr service is up and he is eligible for Fusion service. With this additional $6.50, he hesitated to do the switching because it doesn't benefit him much. Speed might be a tad faster, monthly fee is about the same, and the $35 initial fee. Sonic may have lose out 2 customers but it's not like it will impact the company.

Like Dana said, time will tell. Until then I do enjoy my Sonic while it last.


erifax

join:2000-12-14
ireland

So, I'm not directly affected (I monitor this forum for my parents circuit).

As a former customer myself, it sounds to me like sonic.net wants to make their support job easier by pushing the costs onto their customers.

In my view, this is a lot like baggage fees, except more insidious. It seems like a mandatory fee, perhaps a bit akin to Ryanair's boarding pass fees (yes, they charge you to check in). It might be well-intentioned, but it feels like getting nickel and dimed.

It seems like just bumping the base service fee to be all-inclusive would satisfy everyone.


orange77

join:2009-06-04
South San Francisco, CA

1 edit
reply to NormanS

Dane says: "I believe that the benefits will be large, and I'm hopeful that customers will continue to sign up despite the higher cost today."

We will never know how many new customers Sonic failed to get as a result of this change and it may not matter. As stated, Sonic is counting on this new change in the business model to contribute to expenses to build infrastructure.

That is fine, except that the new mandatory modem rental charge (actually over $7.00 per month, including California Use Tax) which is required only for new customers now, represents a monthly increase of 17.5% which is not trivial to many people.

None of the competition (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T) REQUIRES modem rental. It is optional in most cases. Who would have thought that Sonic.net, of all companies, would do this, and with such short notice?

Reminds me of going ice skating and the rink demanding that we rent the shoes from them. That way, they can be sure that if we slip or fall it is not the fault of the shoes since we rented from them and they must be ok.

There must be a way for Sonic.net to also make the modem rental optional or at least bring the pricing back to what it was, and still have growth and profitability.

The trend for broadband worldwide is more bandwidth for less monthly cost. Just look at Hong Kong. This is going in the wrong direction.



DaneJasper
Sonic.Net
Premium,VIP
join:2001-08-20
Santa Rosa, CA
kudos:9

said by orange77:

That is fine, except that the new mandatory modem rental charge (actually over $7.00 per month, including California Use Tax) which is required only for new customers now, represents a monthly increase of 17.5% which is not trivial to many people.

None of the competition (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T) REQUIRES modem rental. It is optional in most cases. Who would have thought that Sonic.net, of all companies, would do this, and with such short notice?

There is no tax on the modem rental; we pay sales tax on the modems when we buy them from the manufacturer, so there is no "use tax" on the $6.50 equipment fee.

A couple points:

Comcast will allow customers who do not have voice phone service to supply their own equipment, from a list of compatible devices. Those who have telephone service must have an "eMTA" device, of where there are only a couple options, and customers in some areas are barred from supplying their own. The outcome is that the vast majority of Comcast customers do rent equipment from them.

AT&T's U-Verse service, VDSL from the VRAD, IPTV etc - requires their equipment, and the equipment and $6.00/mo fee is mandatory. Additionally they charge for the set-top boxes, wireless TV device if you want it, etc.

-Dane


NormanS
I gave her time to steal my mind away
Premium,MVM
join:2001-02-14
San Jose, CA
kudos:11
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
·Pacific Bell - SBC

said by DaneJasper:

A couple points ...

Certainly to be considered, and somewhat eases the pain. Still ...

In the end, though, going back to AT&T, or running off to Comcast would still be more painful. The place I am trying to get into shows "Fusion" as available; but, alas, until I actually place the order I will not know for sure.
--
Norman
~Oh Lord, why have you come
~To Konnyu, with the Lion and the Drum

unibroker
Premium
join:2010-11-12
Altadena, CA
reply to NormanS

While not happy with the change, even though it doesn't affect me in the near term, I do have to commend Dane in fielding questions/comments. That is where Sonic is still different than its competitors.


klui

join:2001-11-08
Castro Valley, CA

said by unibroker:

...I do have to commend Dane in fielding questions/comments.

I agree.


PremTech101

@aircloud.com
reply to DaneJasper

There is no tax on the modem rental; we pay sales tax on the modems when we buy them from the manufacturer, so there is no "use tax" on the $6.50 equipment fee.

A couple points:

Comcast will allow customers who do not have voice phone service to supply their own equipment, from a list of compatible devices. Those who have telephone service must have an "eMTA" device, of where there are only a couple options, and customers in some areas are barred from supplying their own. The outcome is that the vast majority of Comcast customers do rent equipment from them.

AT&T's U-Verse service, VDSL from the VRAD, IPTV etc - requires their equipment, and the equipment and $6.00/mo fee is mandatory. Additionally they charge for the set-top boxes, wireless TV device if you want it, etc.

-Dane

Just an FYI if you go stand alone internet you have the option of buying the U-verse RG. So you WONT have a $6 rental fee in that case.

Zeonis

join:2009-03-16

Not just for stand alone internet. If you go U-verse internet and phone you can still buy the modem (RG).


Tobester

join:2000-11-14
San Francisco, CA
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
reply to NormanS

I have been following this thread and have been a big supporter of the Sonic Fusion product and their great technical support.

However, this mandatory modem charge for new customers should not be the only option offered. Sonic should allow a choice of purchasing a modem up front, or monthly modem rental charges.

Dane is incorrect when he states all carriers have mandatory monthly modem charges.

I just ran a qualification for my address in San Francisco for AT&T U-Verse and they show a one-time modem purchase charge of $100 for a wireless Internet Gateway, model IP IG51X.

Sonic has stubbed their toe with the short notice, and by using the adage "all carriers do it."



DaneJasper
Sonic.Net
Premium,VIP
join:2001-08-20
Santa Rosa, CA
kudos:9

said by Tobester:

Dane is incorrect when he states all carriers have mandatory monthly modem charges.

I just ran a qualification for my address in San Francisco for AT&T U-Verse and they show a one-time modem purchase charge of $100 for a wireless Internet Gateway, model IP IG51X.

AT&T's equipment fee is confusing, in that it only applies to their traditional U-verse service. This is the product that offers service via VDSL2, where TV, Internet and phone are all offered. For the standard U-verse product, they charge a $6/mo equipment fee.

In San Francisco, they have a product they now call "U-verse", but it is not the same - it is CO-delivered ADSL, and no TV is offered. I think the maximum speed is 12Mbps. For this product they will sell you a modem, rather than rent one. (Note that SF just approved roll-out of the cabinets required for standard U-verse, so you'll see this change in SF before long - as soon as a region has cabinets deployed, it's full U-verse, and thus equipment fee, TV available, max 24Mbps speed, etc.)

Comcast charges an equipment fee, of $7/mo - but they do allow you to avoid this by registering your own equipment, from a list of approved devices. Most customers do simply pay Comcast for equipment. (I have seen mixed messages about customer-owned equipment for end-users who have voice service, an eMTA is required, and it sounds like some have had challenges finding available approved equipment, or getting it activated.)

-Dane

Zeonis

join:2009-03-16

Sorry Dane but you are wrong... I live in an area with full U-verse and I can still purchase the VDSL2 modem (RG) provided I do not get the TV service.



DaneJasper
Sonic.Net
Premium,VIP
join:2001-08-20
Santa Rosa, CA
kudos:9

said by Zeonis:

Sorry Dane but you are wrong... I live in an area with full U-verse and I can still purchase the VDSL2 modem (RG) provided I do not get the TV service.

I based my research on the information on their website, which says the equipment fee applies, and this was confirmed by a call. But, perhaps you just have to push, and talk to the right rep, it could be that the one we spoke with to confirm was not fully informed.

-Dane

nuthead85

join:2008-03-05
Oakland, CA
reply to NormanS

I have been eying residential fusion for about 1-2 yrs with high interest.

But now Sonic.net decides to add a modem rental fee for their equipment which allows them to identify any problems more efficiently.

But I have a question, before Sonic.net had modem rental, everyone could buy a modem from Sonic.net or elsewhere. I remember reading somewhere that within the clause there was no insurance (AT&T calls it WirePro), so if the line was faulty in anyway, we needed to pay some fee for a technician to come and fix it.

Well, now that we are required to rent the equipment, does this fee cover the identification of faulty lines/equipments and the requirement to fix it with no additional charge (Including phone line)?

Or everything is still the same. The rental fee is only good for the faulty equipment replacement.


mc510

join:2005-06-20
Berkeley, CA

Do all of the FCC and local utility user taxes apply to the new modem rental fee? Given that the fee will appear on the same utility bill, I imagine that the answer is yes, but it would be good to know if I'm wrong. At $40/month, I'd sign up for Fusion in a heartbeat. At $52 (with taxes) I'm strongly inclined. At almost $60 (with modem rental, and maybe additional taxes), I'm probably going to pass.