Sonic.net plans ultra-fast network in Sebastopol, with expansion plans elsewhere, as part of its telecom transformation

  • Sonic.net outside plant engineer Mario Rubio survey's phone poles for a location to place fiber optic cable that the company says will deliver 1 Gbps internet speed in Sebastopol, Thursday Mar. 18, 2010. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2010

Google has captured headlines with its promise to build an ultra-fast Internet network in at least one U.S. city by running fiber-optic cables directly to homes.

Santa Rosa, Petaluma and other cities across the nation have clamored to be chosen as the test market. One mayor even jumped into a shark-infested tank in Florida as a publicity stunt to woo the Internet giant.

But in Sonoma County, at least one town will get a similar Internet network without the antics.

Local Internet provider Sonic.net plans to test a fiber-optic network in Sebastopol as part of its ongoing efforts to push the boundaries of technology and transform itself into a full-fledged telecommunications company.

The Santa Rosa company, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, plans to string fiber optic cables along utility poles in front of about 600 Sebastopol homes.

"We have been planning this project for, gosh, almost a year now," said Dane Jasper, co-founder and president of Sonic.net.

The move represents the latest transformation for Sonic.net, which started as a dial-up service and for years has relied on renting copper telephone lines from AT&T — its main competitor.

Now the homegrown company is looking to install its own utility lines directly to homes and offer a service that neither AT&T nor Comcast does.

"Fiber is the end game," Jasper said.

Fiber optic lines are essentially long spindles of glass that transmit information using pulses of light. The technology is capable of carrying significantly larger amounts of digital information — and for longer distances — than other technologies such as cable and phone lines.

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