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Sonic Expands Fiber Footprint in San Francisco

Sonic is expanding the reach of its FTTP network in the tech-savvy city of San Francisco and broadening its offer of an uncapped 1 Gbps broadband/phone bundle that is priced at $40 for the first 12 months.

Under the expansion, Sonic’s bundle, which rises to $50 after the first year, is being is launching in the southern portion of The Mission District, and reach into Noe Valley, The Castro, Dolores Heights, Glen Park and Potrero Hill and Sunnyside in the coming months. That will expand on earlier launches in region’s Sunset District, Richmond District and Parkside.

The expansion marks the second phase of Sonic’s project in San Francisco, company CEO Dane Jasper said, noting that the company focused on areas where it has seen the most interest for the FTTP-fueled offering.

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“It’s a pretty aggressive and exciting product,” he said.

Sonic isn’t disclosing sub numbers or penetration rates for San Francisco, but Jasper said “demand is strong” there. Overall, the company has seen 25% growth overall (and has seen its base of installers grow by more than 300% over the past year), driven primarily by Sonic’s fiber product.

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Sonic will start to activate service in parts of the new build-out phase this week. Customers can also pre-order service in areas where construction isn’t complete. Jasper expects to complete the next phase of the build-out, which uses GPON technology, by March 2018.

“It’s a rolling deployment,” he said, holding that San Francisco has long been one of the nation’s “poorly connected large cities” amid deployment challenges and incumbent MSOs that don’t feel enough competitive pressure.

For its part, Comcast does offer its relatively pricey 2 Gbps “Gigabit Pro” FTTP service on a targeted basis in the San Francisco market, but has not announced when it will offer 1 Gbps using DOCSIS 3.1 there.

On the regulatory side, Jasper disagrees with those that believe that the regulatory framework of the 1996 Telecom Act haven’t’ worked with respect to deployment, at least in Sonic’s case.

“Sonic  is the embodiment of the vision of the 1996 Act,” he said, noting that his company started as an ISP, became a CLEC and deployed into central offices, and is now building its own outside plant.

“That investment ladder, that movement up the food chain, from resale to inside plant facilities to outside plant facilities, is exactly the kind of innovation and deployment that, in my opinion, the 1996 Act enabled,” Jasper said, noting that the example runs counter to comments related to the current Open Internet proceeding.

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“As we accumulate enough customers in an area, like the Mission District in San Francisco, we overbuild with fiber,” he said.

Sonic is also considering this in other cities in California, though it’s not announcing where it intends to build next.

“This is not one and done,” Jasper said of the San Francisco buildout expansion. “This is an ongoing process.”