Tuesday, June 13, 2006

sonic dsl

Today, I changed dsl providers from AT&T / SBC to Sonic.net. The result: one very happy Sonic customer.

Those who know me appreciate that inertia is a steady influence on my actions. I first signed up for SBC dsl in 1999 (back when it was PacBell) and I have been a customer ever since despite a high monthly rate and mediocre speed. Last month I encountered intermittent trouble (dropped sync, line errors, heavy static on my voice line) and I contacted SBC internet support to try to get help. This was a big mistake.

It is very frustrating explaining to CSRs in India that, despite their support scripts, unplugging my modem and waiting 60 seconds does not cure all ailments. It was similarly pointless to argue that removing my functioning router and plugging a computer directly into my dsl modem wouldn’t change anything.

The day staff in San Jose was no better. They seemed confused by the concept of “intermittent.” When their line tests suggested trouble they sent out a tech. When he was able to get sync (just like me 80% of the time) they closed the ticket. The process repeated itself, and then ended with their advice that I buy a new modem. The Advanced Solutions group insisted that the problem was either my modem or my internal wiring, and for $150 I could request an inside technician to tell me which one.

Fortunately, the folks in the quite separate SBC voice division are much more competent. After I opened a different trouble ticket for the static, SBC voice sent out 3 repair technicians to isolate the external problem. My thanks to Steve, Splicing Technician #973 for finding and fixing the bad connector. Better still, SBC voice credited me a month of service without me asking.

In contrast, when the voice repair also resolved my data issues, I contacted internet billing to request a similar credit. A maddening hour and no credit later, a new force took hold – rage – and I began researching for SBC alternatives.

I use Broadband Reports for line speed and quality tests. The tests are free, anonymous and accurate. Additionally, Broadband Reports compiles reviews of ISPs, a service that was great for my situation. I was tempted by cable internet. The promised speeds are fast and Comcast is running a sale. Also, in switching to a new technology there would be no downtime. However, after reading the stellar customers reviews I decided to try Sonic, a small regional provider based in Santa Rosa.

Before placing my internet order last week, I called Sonic tech support to ask some questions about my configuration. Someone answered immediately, and I was shocked by how knowledgeable he was. Similarly, when there were some glitches in provisioning my new line, I was amazed at how Sonic handled it. The issue was escalated to one of their top tech guys, Jason, and he kept calling SBC ASI (Sonic subcontracts their lines) to request changes on their end and then me to keep me informed.

I don’t know how they do it, but Sonic is able to provide much better technical assistance and higher-quality internet service over SBC’s lines all at a lower price. I ordered Pro dsl, and for $19.95 I’m getting 1.5mbps-3.0mbps download and 384kbps-512kbps upload. This evening, according to the Broadband Reports line speed test, my actual speeds are 2083 / 422 (or 260.4 KB/sec down and 52.7 KB/sec up). That is double was I was getting from SBC at half the price – and it is likely to get better as the line is tuned. My advice: if you are considering an ISP change, talk to Sonic.

p.s. tonight, after another hour on the phone I got that month’s refund from SBC internet. hell hath no fury...


At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Brad said...

Nice work getting off your butt for once, Rossiter. Now if you could just return that sound meter...

At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you sure julie didn't guest write this post? it sounds exactly like her experience, although with less anger.

perhaps a call to sonic is in order


At 3:54 PM, Blogger paul said...

Sonic continues to impress. They phoned this morning to check in and report that SBC ASI feels my line will be most stable at 2mbps. They'll keep watching and tuning.

Scott, sorry to hear that Julie has been stuck in SBC hell. Certainly check out Sonic. The only downside with switching dsl providers is that you might have 1 day of downtime while the line switch actually happens. It may be instanteous though.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger lerjia said...

good job milking those bastards, paul! You are a patient man, with rage entering the picture only at paragraph 6. Mine typically (yes, significant sample size) kicked in by about the time the CSRs urged me to reboot & replug even after I told them I already had. My experience with SBC vs. Comcast is that the latter has been somewhat better on the technical support end (but the Tivo-wannabe DVR system SUCKS), but Sonic sounds like it's in a different league entirely.

At 9:10 PM, Anonymous upsetsoniccustomer said...

I thought sonic was great, until my year subscription ended and they (so they claim; I can't find it) sent me an email saying that
1) my year contract was over
2) my price was going to go up - 15 to 30$ a month, for the same service)
3) if I don't respond, I am affirming my acceptance of the "contract"

After getting a bill for 30$ and calling them, I found out that I am somehow in a contract with them! I don't know what I was drinking when I signed this contract, because 30$ a month for the lowest level of DSL service is a hefty rip off (sarcasm - I never agreed to it, it was never discussed, I didn't find out until my bill came ... a convenient 30 days after the 14 days that they said I had to contact them if I didn't agree with their "contract").

I filed a complaint with the BBB and they kept delaying their responses ... I figured out why. They would wait till the end of the billing cycle, THEN respond with an offer to reduce my rate (I don't know where they got the rate of 30$ per month for my service - their own website says that I should, at most, pay 25$ a month if I don't get a contract of any sort ... and yet they somehow decided that I agreed to pay 30$ a month AND that I agreed to one more full year of service.

All I can say is ... get everything in writing. They seem like great people (I posted some glowing reviews of them, at first) but the bottom line is this: they are money-grubbing scumbags, just like the majority of the DSL providers out there. Their bills are deceptive (I agreed, originally, to 14.95/month - my bills all said that I was paying 50$/month, minus TWO separate rebates, and the end amount was 15/month ... why not simplify the bill and be honest with your customers?), they will send you emails at the end of your contract that attempt to bind you to a new contract, with an outrageous price, and when you call them to complain about your suddenly, inexplicably, doubled payments (they autocharge to credit card - if you want them to send you a bill, they hassle you for every last bit of personal information - what, are they going to hunt down your great grandmother if you are late for a payment [I never was, just in case]?)

I can't recommend another company, as it seems to be the norm among these DSL service providers to try to screw around with customers, but I will personally never do business with sonic again.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Jack said...

I just canceled Sonic. After the trial price of $15/m it jumped up to $50. I called and asked if they might consider lowering it. The sales person indicated that they would go to $25/m. It seemed like a poor option since both Sonic and AT&T were running $10/m offers to new customers. So I declined. When I went to cancel the Sonic account they indicated that they were keeping my money for the following month despite the fact that I wouldn't be a customer. That seemed kinda lame.

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you move and the new location can not support the previous DSL speed, sonic will downgrade you to a lower speed. If you think the speed is too low for telecommuting and want to get out of the "CONTRACT", sonic is very nasty that they simply refuse to do so.


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