Leaving Sonic resold AT&T fiber for direct AT&T fiber

Internet access discussion, including Fusion, IP Broadband, and Gigabit Fiber!
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by jmaurice » Tue Feb 09, 2021 3:43 pm
I am soon to be a former happy Sonic customer. I am leaving Sonic for direct AT&T fiber because of the following reasons.

I am moving apartments in the same building. I am grandfathered into a 50 Mpbs fiber connection which is no longer being offered. I would like to keep this same offer and max speed for the new apartment in the same building, but Sonic is unwilling or unable to offer this.

One reason in the past to prefer Sonic is that AT&T used to have data caps on its Fiber service. Now AT&T has unlimited data.

One reason in the past to prefer Sonic is the cheaper monthly rate for a 50 Mbps plan vs a 1 Gbps plan. Sonic now only offers the more costly 1 Gbps plan. I don't need that much bandwidth. It would be almost completely wasted for me. By contrast, AT&T offers a much cheaper 100 Mbps plan. It's cheaper without any promotional offers, and it's going to be even cheaper still with the promotional offers.

One reason in the past to prefer Sonic is that Sonic used to stand for ethical principles. I don't think that's true anymore. Sonic cannot claim to be an ethical company based on just one legal action from 2011. Now, Sonic does many of the same anti-consumer practices of the other ISPs. Sonic only sells bundled services for all of its customers regardless of whether the customer needs it (ex: phone service and the ATA rental fee). I have read elsewhere in these forums that Sonic would have ot raise rates without these bundlings to recoup costs, but they should. This leads to the next problem. Sonic engages in the same industry standard deceptive price advertisements, especially hidden fees, such as the ATA rental fee. I understand the need for a rental fee for the AT&T branded Residential Gateway (RG) because of the anti-consumer practices that AT&T does on their network (limits customer features via software in the RG, and uses crypto authentication to require the RG to be present without esoteric workarounds). However, I don't understand the need for mandatory rental fees for other equipment, like the ATA, DSL modems, etc.

When I explained this all to a Sales Rep on the phone I asked "Why should I stay? What's the value proposition for me?", and they said, paraphrase "to support a local company, and because of better customer service". Sorry - that's not worth the price point difference of almost double aka almost $50 per month.

That's why I'm ordering AT&T Fiber for my new apartment online right now.
by dct » Wed Feb 10, 2021 12:28 pm
We absolutely understand that we're not always going to be the best option; that's due to where we're at with the expansion of our fiber network. We're not everywhere yet, but in the places where we don't have physical presence, we can still provide resold services sans some of the anti-consumer policies (such as data caps). It's not a perfect offering, but to claim we have an option that works for everyone at every price point would be disingenuous.

In terms of bundling, we don't offer ala carte internet, we offer Fusion, which is a bundled product. If you were to compare our Gigabit Fiber service to basic services provided by competitors, you'd likely find we're cheaper, we offer more features, and we have significantly more customer friendly policies, such as offering symmetric speed without data caps, not selling your metadata to firms, hiring local folks from our community to work on, troubleshoot, and install these services. While it might not be on your list of must haves, offering unlimited local, long distance, and international calling is a boon for many, and while it might not be uncommon nowadays, we've been doing this for almost a decade, well into the period of time where "roll over minutes" and "nights and weekends" were still a thing.

Regarding hidden fees, our sales page discloses the rental costs of any associated equipment required for connectivity. Our ads display in a lot of different places, and due to the nature of connectivity, not all services are available in all places, and not all services require rental equipment, which is why we state "starting at", and provide a breakdown of total rental fees during signup.

We also don't append the costs of the equipment to the bottom of the bill in fine print, we provide an itemized breakdown of all services, taxes, and fees on your invoice. We're consumers too, and we don't like surprises on our bills either. We don't feel that these fees are hidden, and we take meaningful steps to make sure you're aware of the total cost of service. I fully understand you feel differently, but that's why feedback like yours is important - it might never be perfect, but we can still look for ways to improve.

As you pointed out, things like additional bandwidth, local support, and privacy policies aren't part of the value equation, and a tiered service is a better option for you. We feel differently: we want customers to have the fastest speeds possible, pro-consumer privacy policies, and meaningful features that add additional value to the service.

That said, when comparing services, at the end of the day, you have to pursue which available options will best suit your needs, and in this case, it seems that isn't Sonic. We appreciate your perspective and feedback regarding your service and the choices that went into this decision, as we really do use feedback like yours to improve how we communicate, and which/how we offer service.
Dan T.
Community & Escalations Manager
707-547-3400
@Sonic
by jmaurice » Wed Feb 10, 2021 1:33 pm
I wanted to emphasize something that I think you handled poorly: rental fees. If the rental fee is mandatory, then it's unethical to advertise any starting rate which does not include the rental fee. Another way of saying the same thing is that any separate mandatory rental fee is also unethical - unless it's forced on you by contract from AT&T, which I assume it is for reselling AT&T fiber. If you have to do it because of AT&T's anti-competitive business practice of requiring their "Residential Gateways" via crypto authentication, then you should at least advertise the honest price up front instead of having a little asterisk leading to fine print which practically says "significant mandatory rental fees not included". Roughly 15 dollars per month in mandatory rental fees is a significant price point difference which is being hidden in fine print, and that's not ok.
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