bringing high-speed fiber service to Brentwood

SANTA ROSA -- has entered into a public-private partnership to build new, ultra-high-speed Internet infrastructure in parts of the East Bay city of Brentwood, the latest development in the company's longer-term plans to build those fiber optic network connections throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

That infrastructure, allowing Internet speeds hundreds of times faster than typical household connections, could initially reach over 8,000 homes as well as all commercial areas constructed in Brentwood over the past 15 years, according to a report by city staff. The Brentwood City Council approved the agreement on May 13.

The approval comes on the heels of Santa Rosa-based Sonic's two high-speed fiber networks currently operating in Sonoma County, along with a third set to come online within the next year.

"We anticipate expanding further," said Dane Jasper, CEO.

The Brentwood project will take advantage of 120 to 150 miles of existing underground conduit constructed as part of mandatory building codes since 1999. Sonic will carry the cost of constructing that network for the city and, as part of the agreement, be granted a long-term lease to offer service to residents and businesses.

The gigabit speed possible on those networks -- equivalent to 1,000 megabytes per second -- is still a relative rarity in the United States. Less than 9 percent of U.S. residents have access to such service, according to the most recent February broadband access report from the Federal Communications Commission.

Yet that percentage is steadily increasing. In Sonoma County, Sonic currently offers gigabit internet service to businesses at the Northpoint Corporate Center and is working to expand the fiber optic infrastructure currently allowing service to around 700 homes in Sebastopol. A project to bring gigabit service to businesses at the Airport Business Center is expected to come online in nine to 12 months, Mr. Jasper said.

"They're building over half a mile of conduit infrastructure each week out there right now," he said.

Other Internet service providers have announced plans to build gigabit service networks throughout the country. Yet Sonic was among the first, partnering with Google for a fiber-to-the-home pilot project at Stanford University announced in December 2010.

Sonic has more than 80,000 customers and $45 million-plus in annual revenue, according to the Brentwood city staff report. Privately held Sonic stopped releasing that data publicly in 2009, when revenue totaled $21 million.

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