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Sonic is one of the best ISPs in the nation - well beloved by its California subscribers and policy geeks like us in part because of its CEO and Co-Founder, Dane Jasper. Dane combines a tremendous amount of technical and business knowledge in a thoughtful and friendly personality. And while we don't always agree, we are always interested in what he is thinking about.
Dane joins us for Community Broadband Bits episode 261, where we focus on how cities can invest in infrastructure that will both allow firms like Sonic to thrive and permanently break any concerns about a monopoly over Internet access. Dane encourages cities to focus on dark infrastructure -- conduits or dark fiber that allow ISPs more freedom to pick and perhaps change the technologies they want to deploy services.
We also talk about network neutrality and a very brief history of Sonic.
Additionally worth noting, Sonic gets five stars from the "Who Has Your Back" evaluation from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Smart conduit policy, implemented in 1999, is now paying off in Brentwood. The Bay Area community of 52,000 recently reached an agreement with Sonic.net to bring fiber to the community via city-owned conduit. The partners anticipate a fall 2015 project completion.
The City requires all new development be constructed with conduit to the premise via a joint trench. Over the past 15 years, the amount of conduit has expanded to approximately 150 miles reaching more than 8,000 homes and all commercial construction. Brentwood has grown exponentially in the past 15 years. Between 2000 and 2010, its population more than doubled as it transitioned from farms to suburbs.
A number of other communities have implemented similar conduit policies to improve connectivity options. Mount Vernon, Washington, and Sandy, Oregon, are only a few towns where conduit policy for new development has facilitated fiber deployment.
We checked in with Kerry Breen, Assistant Finance Director for Brentwood, who offered more details on the partnership. Sonic.net will pay to lease the conduit, connect City facilities, provide dedicated fiber to the City, fill in any gaps in the conduit network, and maintain the network. The ISP will also develop a pilot program to install conduit in a pre-1999 subdivision containing 250-500 homes.
Sonic.net will connect public facilities that are adjacent to existing conduit. If the City wants to connect facilities situated in other areas, it will pay Sonic.net to complete the connections. Brentwood will save approximately $15,000 per year immediately because Sonic.net will provide gigabit service to City Hall at no charge.
The company will also pull fiber through traffic conduit and connect City traffic signals at no extra cost in these locations. If Sonic.net ultimately provides Wi-Fi, the City will have access at no charge, increasing efficiencies and reducing costs for municipal employees that work in the field such as city inspectors or public safety personnel.
Dane Jasper, the CEO of Sonic.net, one of the few ISPs to survive the death of broadband competition over the past ten years, wrote about "America's Intentional Broadband Duopoly." It is a short history of how the FCC's flawed analysis (helped along by incredible amounts of lobbying dollars, no doubt).
He starts by asking when the last time anyone offered to sell you broadband over power lines (BPL). The FCC decided that cable and telephone companies shouldn't have to share their wires (which are a natural monopoly) with competitors (creating an actual marketplace for services) because BPL, satellite, and wireless would put so much competitive pressure on DSL and cable. FAIL.
Then, in the Brand X decision, they ruled that Cable would not be required to allow competitors to lease their lines either. The FCC did this by reclassifying broadband Internet access as an “information service”, rather than a “telecommunications service”. As a result, common carriage rules could be set aside, allowing for an incumbent Cable monopoly. This decision was challenged all the way to the supreme court, who ruled in 2005 that the FCC had the jurisdiction to make this decision. To close out Powell’s near-complete dismantling of competitive services in the U.S., the FCC took up the issue of ISPs resale of DSL using the incumbent’s equipment, also known as wholesale “bitstream” access. If Cable is an information service under Brand X, why shouldn’t Telco have the same “regulatory relief”? The result: the FCC granted forbearance (in other words, declined to enforce its rules) from the common carriage requirements for telco DSL services.For those who are thinking that wireless is finally competitive with cable and DSL, don't forget that while 4G appears much faster (because so few people are using it presently), it still comes with a 2GB monthly cap. So if you want to do something with your connection aside from watching one movie a month, 4G is not competitive with a landline connection.