Sonic.net: We Delete User Logs After Two Weeks. Your ISP Should, Too.

Sonic.net: We Delete User Logs After Two Weeks. Your ISP Should, Too.

Comcast or AT&T or Verizon typically keep their logs for 18 to 36 months.

What we saw was a shift towards customers being made part of a business model that involved -- I don't know if extortion is the right word -- but embarassment for gain. [...] But they would pay the settlement anyway. Because no one wants to be named in the public record in a case from So-And-So Productions vs. 1,600 names including Bob Smith for downloading a film called "Don't Tell My Wife I B---F----- The Babysitter." [...]

We saw a big uptake in this problem early last year. The "Don't Tell My Wife" one was the first, and we laughed about it. But then we saw more and more coming in. So I looked at this, and it was a cynical, awful business.

I met with my system team, and I said, why are we keeping these logs? The primary reasons were law enforcement and spam, so we looked at our law enforcement subpoenas, and the spam processing. In the case of spam, someone is infected and becomes part of a botnet, somebody kicks off a spam job and the customer dumps 20,000 emails in a day. We get complaints, and they're all about the last day. My systems team also only needed logs for a day.

So then I looked at law enforcement subpoenas and tried to balance an ability to help law enforcement when it's morally right to do so with an inability to help anybody beyond a certain window. In the civil copyright cases, we'd get a subpoena from them anywhere from 30-90 days later, sometimes longer after the alleged act of piracy has occurred.

We were concerned about cases where there's a kidnapping, a threat to the human life, and the FBI is trying to find the kidnapper who sent a demand email yesterday or a week ago. We felt like two weeks was a good window that would allow us to address some things -- both our own needs in the long term and the law enforcement's dire needs in the mid-term -- while omitting any ability to assist in what we felt was like an extortion racket.

Sonic.net has been my ISP for years, and I've been very happy with them. Besides things like the above, they've been incredibly reliable and their support staff know what they're talking about.

The only downside is that installation can take a while, because they use AT&T copper. Since AT&T has no incentive to help a competitor, that tends to add 2+ weeks to any installation.

If you're in the Bay Area and using AT&T or Comcast, I'm pretty sure you have no rational reason to continue to do so.

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33 Responses:

  1. I expect to switch to Sonic soon. The last straw with my current ISP, Megaspeakovadeasypath, was their handling of a recent DoS attack on me. Even though my very first contact with them included two different fix options that would take maybe five minutes to implement, they took two weeks to fail to do anything, until finally the attacker got bored and went away on his own. It was actually pretty epic.

  2. Laura Rubin says:

    I had them when I lived in the South Bay, and they got extra brownie points from me for running a latency test to my building's demarc and flat out telling me that they couldn't actually offer the higher-speed plan I'd originally ordered. Also, their customer support line is open until 11 PM Pacific time, and even better wouldn't force me through a long and irrelevant script when I started the call saying "I can't ping google.com and I've already power-cycled my router."

  3. It's an awesome stand, but for all his pooh-poohing of dedicated VPN services I rather wish he'd consider getting into that business. DSL is a technological dead-end: buying into a DSL provider in 2012 is like buying ISDN in 2002.

    • Nick Lamb says:

      How is DSL a "technological dead-end" exactly?

      • MattyJ says:

        I live in a physical dead end. My punishment for living near the beach is that I get 1 mbps with DSL if I'm lucky. But yeah, I'd like to hear about this technological dead end, too.

      • ADSL2 tops out at (more or less) 20Mbps downstream and 1.5Mbps upstream (modulo loop distance, adsl profile, wiring quality and a bunch of other variables.) DOCSIS3 starts at roughly 30/6 (modulo a similarly-long list of handwaves, plus "oh god my backbone asplode" caps imposed by various providers) and runs happily on up to 100/10.

        Obviously, for plenty of people, even 1-6mbps downstream speeds are perfectly usable, but the price/value proposition for DSL keeps getting worse and worse compared to cable and fiber, and I don't expect that to change or improve.

        • Nick Lamb says:

          OK, I was worried for a moment you meant something actually relevant to Sonic.net

          They don't own most of the copper in the street. It makes no difference to them whether the last mile is specifically ANSI T1.413 or something else. There's an excellent chance that the customer will keep calling it "DSL" even if what's actually happening is a slightly different technology that runs the shorter distance from a cabinet in the street or whatever.

          Sonic is looking to bury fibre. If I was them I'd steer clear of that too, but then I don't live in the monopoly-friendly United States of America. Either way they're only as bound to the specific last mile technology as everybody else is in San Francisco where JWZ can tell you that BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone) make deploying new technologies a legal nightmare.

          The VPN business doesn't seem like something anybody with local, skilled employees would want to touch. It's an ideal opportunity for fly-by-night businessmen in countries with far more network connectivity than law enforcement. You can do your tech support by email, hire the cheapest possible workers from wherever in the world, and most of your customers are engaged in criminal (or at least shameful) behaviour and won't be too keen to make a fuss in public if you screw them.

  4. carrieaki says:

    I'm in Oakland and have been using Sonic.net for almost a year and am very happy!!! Excellent customer service

  5. Anthony says:

    Sonic.net also has their new "fusion" service, which is ADSL2+ (G.992.5) to your house using existing copper, but serviced by XO. It includes a land line.

    One advantage Sonic.net has is that when the problem ends up being AT&T, it's their tech calling AT&T, with a pretty complete report, so the AT&T call-center folks don't have to run you through the "is it plugged in?" scripts.

  6. Ted says:

    Added to my to-do list: Switch to sonic.net.

  7. Brian says:

    I've been meaning to switch ISPs from AT&Love for a while now. This was just what I needed to finally move on something. Read your post this morning, checked it out and ordered service.

  8. J. Peterson says:

    That AT&T copper is a problem. For several years I had DSL (Telocity, then Speakeasy.net) over AT&T copper, and it was awful. Multiple "reset the modem" failures a day. A couple episodes of week+ downtime because said copper would fail completely, and AT&T would take their sweet time looking into it. And AT&T can never answer a phone call without transferring you to at least three other people who have no idea how to help you.

    I've switched to the evil cable company. I don't use any of their host services (email, etc.), but the basic transport has been fast and reliable.

    • jwz says:

      AT&T is horrid, but like Anthony pointed out, this tends not to be a problem with Sonic: you never have to talk to AT&T. Their customer is Sonic, not you. Just a few weeks ago, a friend who lives in the same building as I do (and has Sonic) was having a lot of problems. Sonic figured it and got an AT&T tech out to re-punch the run from the street within a couple of days. I've had similar experiences with them in the past.

      "You never have to talk to AT&T" is definitely a selling point.

  9. Richard says:

    Sonic.net is pretty much perfect.
    My service has done nothing but get cheaper and better and more reliable for over a decade, and every technical problem I've experienced has been addressed immediately.

  10. I love Sonic. I've been a customer for almost 5 years. But where I live, AT&T has upgraded their copper using remote terminals, and Sonic can't resell ADSL2+ out of those street-side boxes.

    I pay $100/m for my 6Mbps & static IPs & the dialtone they ride on, and wring my hands and gnash my teeth at the reality that I could be getting ~60Mbps from Comcast for the same price.

    So yes, I vote with my dollars. But my choice is starting to look irrational.

    • After thinking about this for a few seconds, I realized that I wish Sonic.net would become a cable-TV franchise. I would actually show up at city hall to support that.

    • Nathan Roberts says:

      But my choice is starting to look irrational.

      Hardly. Sonic is run by people that know their shit, unlike the bunch of incompetent cockgobblers at Comcast.

      What good is all that extra speed if your provider can't actually deliver it without fucking it up?

      • Yeah, that's how I feel. But I've been polling my friends with cable ISPs for a while, and while the "fucking it up" events do happen, most of the time they really are getting 5-10x more bandwidth than me. I'm paying to support a great business, but I could really use that extra bandwidth.

        Would you stay on dialup because the ISP was awesome?

        Oh well. If you can get Sonic.net's fusion service, DO IT.
        If not, hold your breath as long as you can for their FTTH service.

        • Richard says:

          Would you stay on dialup because the ISP was awesome?

          That's hyperbolic, but in this case (sonic ADSL at ~6kbps), yes.

          Of course I have no idea what I'd do with "5-10x more bandwidth" anyway.

    • I host a medium-busy web server at home and I'm not sure Comcast would be ok with that. I guess I should ask them.

      • gryazi says:

        They'll probably upsell you onto a "business" plan. Whatever that means.

        (I think it means they concede to operating as a telecom carrier rather than a TV company for those customers - as long as they take TV as well or pay more to not have it - but AT&T has started to drop the bar for carrier-grade service pretty low. Which is a shame, because there used to be at least a competence:exorbitance thing going with the absorbed-by-SBC McBell over on my New Englandy side of the country.)

        • Nathan Roberts says:

          That's actually one of the biggest reasons I went with Sonic. I can be a real node on the internet.

  11. Chris McAfee says:

    I just moved across town and switched from AT&T to sonic fusion. Signed up online, 10-day wait, dude shows up right on time and we're up in 45 min. Speed is better, it's cheaper, and I've had good support from them in the past @ startup-land. The best part so far has been avoiding the AT&T zombies and the 2-freaking-wire routers.

    • gryazi says:

      2Wire just got absorbed by someone. I have no idea if this means it gets worse or better.

      (I used to like the first generation products back when it seemed insane to expect Grandma to know what 192.168.1.1 meant. Then the equivalent of Grandma started asking why her link kept dropping with a full-price replacement 2701HG just out of warrant and I started asking what ERR_DMA meant. A Netgear from Staples has been reliable in replacement thus far, though the web UI is still from 1998.)

      • Tim says:

        The 2701HG kinda sucks that way. Also, it's slow. My life has involved significantly fewer 2701HG power cycles ever since I figured out how to force it into bridge mode (this is not easily discoverable, you have to google the magic incantations) and delegate routing duties to an Airport Extreme base station.

        Even in dumb bridge mode, I still have to restart the 2701HG now and then. The AEBS is much more stable.

        • gryazi says:

          If it helps any when you encounter such: One of the major problems was that 2Wire shipped a ton of switching wall-warts that would slowly flake out over time. Symptoms are random restarts, or as I discovered, restarts when peering wireless - actually dependent on passphrase length, go figure. If you see the blinky red reboot light a lot, the good news is that a PSP charger fits and tends to be more reliable. The bad news is that since the original PSP stopped being a product they're no longer easy to find retail.

          The ERR_DMA thing (official line: 'pay no mind, pay no mind') is infuriating and apparently is on the modem side - it results in dropped sync, not restarts - although some people have had luck with various chicken-wavings (forcing WPA2-only, disabling wireless entirely) that didn't work for me or went untested because the topology didn't allow it (wireless being kind of essential when you are avoiding stringing wires). I wouldn't put it past disabling wireless and bridging to a different AP somehow removing whatever real condition that triggers that glitch, but at that point it was worth trading hardware.

          How do you determine / define 'slow?' T only deploys 1.5mbit around here and the replacement retail Netgear I dropped in probably syncs a hair slower than the 2Wire, but that's unnoticeable compared to a connection that drops for 30 seconds at least once an hour. I have, however, been through the fun with both the old Speedstreams and 2Wires where lightning surge damage zaps something on the modem PHY side to degrade it to <300kbits without killing it outright - after one week of service calls concluding in a tech visiting the house and, to my chagrin, proving it really was the modem, I now skip that step and go straight to testing with different hardware.

          • gryazi says:

            I should amend that - only deploys 1.5mbit for the affordable tier of basic DSL service; I think you can pay twice as much to see if your line can handle anything faster. Per DSLReports, in towns where the U-Verse rollout is complete they're actually starting to surprise people with a letter followed by new modem hardware and a slight speed bump to whatever the minimum whatever new standard the U-Verse is using for the last 1000ft can provide (3mbit?), apparently so they can free up space in their racks/stop paying the electric bill for the older hardware.

            But that hasn't happened anywhere any of my relatives live yet.

          • Tim says:

            I don't think I have any hardware problems (yet). It doesn't random-restart, it just eventually loses its mind and stops routing traffic. The symptoms are generally consistent with a slow memory leak which requires periodic rebooting. Thanks for the tip about the common wall wart failure, though. If it ever starts doing those things I'll know where to look first.

            By "slow" I meant that the router's CPU is slow. It's most easily noticeable in the sluggish HTML configuration interface. I don't really care about that, but the real problem is that routing / NAT performance can tank under certain loads, mostly BitTorrent. BT creates tens or hundreds of TCP sessions, and lots of home gateway router CPUs fall over when asked to track lots of simultaneous connections. I don't torrent much, usually just Linux ISO images and the like, but it is sometimes an irritant.

            The other performance issue is just that it only supports 802.11g. That's actually most of why I got an AEBS -- last year I acquired a shiny new toy with 802.11n, and wanted faster wireless access to my fileserver.

  12. joe says:

    This is pretty great. and i second all the sonic praise. They're truly wonderful to deal with and their tech support generally answers the phone on the third ring and fixes the problem on the first call (not that i've had many problems at all).

    But I've also got a (free !) fixed ip address from them. This policy isn't going to help me with the BF'ing the Babysitter problem, is it?

  13. Sheilagh says:

    They need to franchise to Austin!

  14. Dane Jasper says:

    Hi folks, Dane Jasper with Sonic.net here. Very interesting commentary, and thanks very much to those who are customers and who have written so many nice things about the company and our Fusion offering. We've got a vision about what broadband should be in the US, and we're working hard to get there. This includes our business model innovations around the Fusion product (uncapped, unlimited data, unlimited voice, one price, etc), and our investment in Fiber-to-the-home migration. (Which, I will concede, is a long-term and expensive project.)

    So - thanks again.

    -Dane Jasper
    CEO & Co-Founder
    Sonic.net

  15. ddp says:

    Agreed, 100% Sonic.net rocks, though since Dane's reading :-), I wish they still offered a little more break for the second year of Elite-S. Regardless, if Sonic's available, use them. Period. I'm currently living in Tahoe and stuck on U-verse. I know the AT&T U-verse support number by heart. Those neurons ought to be allocated to other things...