Gigabit Cities

Sonic Pushes Free Gigabit to California Schools

Sonic has expanded gigabit-speed service to several communities in Northern California, and will connect some local school districts to the ISP's gigabit network for free if the surrounding communities embrace the service.

The Santa Rosa, Calif.-based ISP Sonic.net Inc. is extending its gigabit offering to parts of the cities of Brentwood, Sebastopol, Novato and the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, according to Tara Sharp, Sonic's head of marketing.

Of those regions, Brentwood is the largest, passing 9,000 homes and several hundred businesses, she said. In Brentwood, Sonic is offering to provide gigabit connectivity to schools for free if it gets a 30% penetration rate.

"If we're building out gigabit fiber in a neighborhood and a certain number subscribe, we'll light up the schools for free," Sharp says. "It's a big issue for the schools -- a lot of them can't support students using the Internet at all. This will have a magnificent impact on those public schools."

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Sonic uses fiber-to-the-home infrastructure from Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) in its network, and charges $40/month for "unlimited, unthrottled gigabit," Sharp says -- well below the US average of around $70/month for gigabit connectivity.

"People really like us because we're the cheapest," she says. In addition to the low price, she says, Sonic has created a "Champions" group in Brentwood composed of people who volunteer to help get the word out, putting flyers under doormats and otherwise promoting the service by word-of-mouth. In an increasingly crowded gigabit services market, lowest price and unbreakable customer loyalty could be critical components to standing out from the pack.

"There's been an incredible groundswell," Sharp says. "It's almost like guerilla marketing."

— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading

Phil_Britt 2/24/2015 | 7:50:13 AM
Re: Nice incentive! They could be doingt much like Apple did years ago, establishing a footprint in the schools to help drive business in the private sector.
jasonmeyers 2/19/2015 | 5:26:07 PM
Re: Nice incentive! That is true. To be fair, they didn't really lay claim to being altruistic - not to me, anyway. They simply said they are doing it. I look at it as a marketing tool -- a way to get more people in neighborhoods signed up.
brooks7 2/19/2015 | 1:25:41 PM
Re: Nice incentive! "If they feel giving schools free service as a way to advertise their services, what would be wrong with that?"

Becayse they are not giving away free services first.  If they wanted to be truly altruistic, they would FIRST hook up the school.


sineira 2/19/2015 | 11:33:29 AM
Re: Nice incentive! If they add service where I live I would sign up in a heartbeat to get rid of Comcast (talking about untrusting).

Not really sure why you are untrusting? What is there to be untrusting about?
 If they feel giving schools free service as a way to advertise their services, what would be wrong with that?
mendyk 2/19/2015 | 11:05:55 AM
Re: Nice incentive! They get a 30% market share for their altruism, which makes it a little less altruistic.
Mitch Wagner 2/18/2015 | 11:33:40 AM
Re: Nice incentive! I expect you're right. I'm excessively untrusting. Bad upbringing no doubt. 
jasonmeyers 2/18/2015 | 11:20:05 AM
Re: Nice incentive! Why are you skeptical? A lot of for-profit companies have some kind of charitable arm. And my read on what they "get" (besides an outlet for charitable giving) is more penetration in the neighborhoods they're building out. If their fiber already passes a school and they have 30% or more customer penetration in the neighborhood, they're able to connect the school for the cost of the fiber drop and CPE. So it's a way for them to give back to the communities they serve. 
Mitch Wagner 2/18/2015 | 11:11:06 AM
Re: Nice incentive! I wonder what Sonic gets out of giving the service free to schools then?

I'm skeptical of for-profit companies' displays of altruism. 
jasonmeyers 2/18/2015 | 11:04:42 AM
Re: Nice incentive! It's only just being rolled out in these regions, so we'll see what kind of take rate they get -- but from what they're saying it sounds like they think the demand is there. 
Mitch Wagner 2/18/2015 | 10:48:46 AM
Nice incentive! It's a nice incentive to get members of the community to sign up for the gigabit service. 

Has Sonic had difficulty generating demand for this service?
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