The Electronic Frontier Foundation published its annual study of the privacy polices of top Internet companies and awarded four stars to one and only one company: Sonic.Net, Sonoma’s County’s much-loved broadband and phone service provider. Sonic is the only company to have achieved that distinction in EFF’s annual surveys.
EFF examined the policies of eighteen companies, including Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. Some companies did well (Dropbox, Twitter); some got no stars at all (Verizon, Skype).
The companies were measured in four categories:
- A public commitment to inform users when their data is sought by the government.
- Transparency about when and how often companies hand data to the government.
- Fight for users’ privacy rights in the courts.
- Fight for users’ privacy in Congress.
Sonic gets top marks in all categories but gets special recognition for its successful petition in federal court seeking to inform a Sonic customer of a Justice Department request for information in the Wikileaks investigation. Other ISPs got the same request from the Justic Department and it’s likely that they simply rolled over and provided the information without seeking to notify their customers.
Sonic is a local company with a national reputation.
It has been introducing its Fusion service in selected areas in California, offering phone service and fast Internet connections (up to 20Mbps) over phone lines run on Sonic equipment, completely bypassing AT&T. Fusion is low-priced and has no hidden catches – it just works. It’s only available in selected areas (including some parts of southern California). Anyone stuck with AT&T DSL should check whether it’s available.
Sonic continues to earn its reputation as one of the best companies in the country for customer support; it has one of the highest rankings of any ISP over at Broadband Reports.
On top of being on the side of the angels, Sonic has also been recognized repeatedly in the last few years for doing some of the most technically advanced broadband work in the country. A small neighborhood in Sebastopol has the fastest Internet speeds in the country right now, courtesy of Sonic’s pilot network of fiber-optic cables. Florence Avenue residents can sign up for speeds of up to 1Gb per second for a fraction of the price charged by Comcast for one-tenth the speed. The finishing touches are now being put on expanding that project to more homes in Sebastopol and Sonic hopes to start a similar experiment in San Francisco.
Sonic’s pioneering work led Google to partner with Sonic for a pilot project to bring fiber to homes in Palo Alto. The Sebastopol project also provided an interesting conclusion to a New York Times article a few days ago about a startup company that has raised money to bring ultrafast service to six research universities – someday. The article noted that there’s lots of talk about fiber networks but not much action from major companies, with Sonic being one of the only companies nationwide that is actually delivering gigabit speeds.
Sonic customers are in good hands. Anyone still suffering with AT&T DSL should find out if Sonic can provide an alternative.