The History of Sonic.net

Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), circa 1991: "santarosa.edu" connected to CSUNet. It began with one node: Odie.santarosa.edu, the Library's HP9000.

As the campus Ethernet grew, so did SRJC's network support staff, eventually forming a new informal division within Bob Schooling's Computing Services department: the "nerd group". Under the direction of Dave Johnston, the network grew. Providing the SRJC community with ubiquitous Internet access became a project collateral to that growth.

Dane Jasper -- a student lab technician in Jay Field's academic computing lab, and later working for Computing Services -- and Scott Doty, a student employee in Bob Schooling's Computing Services department, worked for Dave Johnston on new ways to bring the Internet to everyone on campus -- faculty, administration, and students alike.

While faculty and administration had a "home base" from which to operate on the Internet, students were effectively homeless. In 1992, Scott Doty, under the supervision of Gary Brown (SRJC Computer and Information Science department); and with the support of Dave Johnston of Computing Services, as well as that of the Computing Resource Group; constructed a new server running a brand new operating system: Linux. Not only did the system host email for students, but it became a development platform for many pre-web information systems, such as "hytelnet" and "gopher". Indeed, Dane Jasper installed, configured, and populated one of the first Gopher servers in California.

Eventually Dane began a career in Unix consulting, managing an AIX system connected with an extensive WAN to many regional offices. Scott continued to work at SRJC as a full-time classified staff member. At the time, there was one ISP in Santa Rosa, and both Dane and Scott regularly handed out brochures for their services.

One day, Dane suggested that it would be easy to start a "Freenet"(tm) in Santa Rosa. Scott wasn't too sure if the concept would take off, but thought it would be an interesting project. However, when presented in informal discussion to the campus network community, some were critical of the concept, citing the fact that "Freenet" was a trademark of Case Western Reserve University. "Well then," we said, "we'll just call it a 'PAnet'." (Pronounced "paynet", this stood for "Public-Access network".)

First operating for free as a UUCP node, some careful cost accounting revealed that Internet access could be offered for a little as $2/month -- a goal that later proved to be optimistic, but nevertheless allowed the organization to get off the ground. The partnership between Dane and Scott was named "Sonoma Interconnect," which was a back-formation from the domain name that they registered, "Sonic.net". Full-time Internet operations began in September, 1994, connecting to John Harkin's North Bay Networks.

In 1995, Sonic.net moved to its downtown Santa Rosa location, as PacBell would not sell more than 17 phone lines to a residence. Through a program of careful, managed growth, Sonic.net avoided the resource problems that plagued many local startups during the "Internet Boom". Sonic.net has consistently demonstrated leadership in the market through innovative strategies -- for instance, when projected growth indicated that available phone lines to Sonic.net's building would not maintain an acceptable "modem ratio", Sonic.net declared a moratorium on new customers until completion of a planned cable-pull from PacBell.

With our commitment to customer service, careful design philosophy, extensive network monitoring, and "straight-shooter" philosophy in informing customers about problems, it's no wonder that our best advertising has always been word-of-mouth referrals from existing customers. We are pleased to provide Internet service to Northern California; and as the years have worn on, we continue to offer more bang for the buck than any other ISP in our operating area -- "local" or otherwise.

Dane Jasper
Scott Doty
Sonic.net, Incorporated