Sonic Internet vs AT&T Internet

Sonic is a unique alternative to AT&T that offers better-rated customer service and equivalent speeds. Both providers offer fiber internet in the Bay Area. As a rule, your decision between AT&T and Sonic should be based on the speed available at your building.

Brand Service type Speed range Price range Contact
AT&T DSL, Fiber 5–1,000 Mbps $49.99–59.99/mo. (844) 886-4258
Sonic DSL, Fiber 20–1000 Mbps $39.99–69.99/mo. (888) 766-4233

Fees and fine print Compare plans

AT&T is one of the largest internet providers in California, while Sonic is a smaller provider that operates specifically in the Bay Area.

Sonic is widely regarded as the better choice, thanks to their local customer service and ultra-high fiber speeds around San Francisco.

However, AT&T is likely to be faster if you’re elsewhere in California, including Los Angeles. While Sonic is “available” in Los Angeles and other cities outside the Bay Area, they provide service using leased AT&T lines in those areas. You’ll see this advertised as “Fusion IPBB” or “IPBB” Sonic internet.

Sonic vs AT&T Internet Basic Features

FeatureAT&T InternetSonic Internet
Starting price$49.99/mo. sign-up price$39.99/mo. sign-up price
Download speed range5–1,000 Mbps20–1000 Mbps
Upload speed range1–1,000 Mbps1.5–1000 Mbps
Network typeDSL, FiberDSL, Fiber
Contract termsContract-freeContract required for cheapest price

The challenge with comparing Sonic and AT&T is that they both have very different speeds depending on your address. We recommend that you check your address directly with both providers, and make a decision based on the fastest speed at your addressnot on the contents of general online reviews.

AT&T vs Sonic Data Usage Policies

Many internet providers in California use data caps to manage their network, meaning that if you use more than a certain amount of data, you will be charged extra on top of your monthly bill.

Sonic has long provided unlimited service, even before it started to become the norm for competitive ISPs. Therefore, we recommend Sonic if you’re a cord-cutter or work from a home office.

AT&T has data caps on some plans. 1TB is a common cap on AT&T internet plans. Sonic offers unlimited plans with no data caps.

AT&T Internet Data Caps

AT&T places data caps on some plans.

Sonic Internet Data Caps

Sonic offers internet plans with unlimited data

AT&T vs Sonic Net Neutrality Policies

Sonic is well-known for promoting consumer privacy and supporting Net Neutrality. Most noteably, Sonic challenged the court order for them to turn over private information on WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum in 2011. 1

AT&T has a less encouraging stance on the topic, and historically has participated in lobbyist groups that promote anti-regulatory and pro-incumbent (ILEC) policies at the state and national level.

AT&T Internet Net Neutrality Stance

AT&T has a statement of support for Net Neutrality on their policy website, but has remained quiet on the topic of future paid prioritization for certain services.

AT&T Net Neutrality statement
Sonic Internet Net Neutrality Stance

Sonic is one of the loudest pro-Net-Neutrality voices among US internet providers. The company has actively taken steps to protect user privacy and preserve Net Neutrality.

Sonic Net Neutrality statement

Sonic IPBB vs Sonic Fiber

Sonic service has two basic categories:

  1. Sonic DSL (IPBB) service resold on AT&T DSL lines
  2. Sonic Fiber-to-the-Home internet using their own fiber lines.

IPBB service is best for customers who are frustrated with AT&T and/or their local cable company, and want to reduce their price or have a more pleasant customer service experience. It’s worth considering for California residents in locations where AT&T and basic cable are the only option.

AT&T vs Sonic internet.
Sonic is a unique local provider in California who operates a fiber network in the Bay Area. They compete with AT&T's legacy DSL service as well as AT&T's newer fiber offers, as well as reselling on AT&T lines in both SoCal and NoCal.

Fiber is almost always the best option, provided you’re in a neighborhood with coverage. As of 2020, Sonic has been expanding around the Bay Area and to new neighborhoods in San Francisco.

Sonic fiber map permits.
This map maintained by an enthusiast shows streets where Sonic has permits active for fiber installation in the San Francisco area. Source: @Aloisius on GitHub.

When comparing Sonic to Xfinity, it’s important to check if you are in their fiber area or not, as this obviously makes the comparison completely different.

AT&T vs Sonic Pricing and Fees

Here is a breakdown of how common add-on fees compare for AT&T and Sonic plans. These types of fees are common with internet providers, and can result in larger bill each month.

FeeAT&TSonic
WiFi equipment fee~$10/mo.~$9.50/mo.
Price increasesBill increases after promo periodBill increases after promo period
Early Termination FeeFree cancellationFree cancellation

Note that fee amounts described above may vary by plan. See the plan comparison tables for AT&T and Sonic below for more information.

While Xfinity is fairly open to allowing customers to use their own WiFi equipment (and save the router fee each month), Sonic requires that you use their router (or rather, the AT&T router) for IPBB “Fusion” plans. They sometimes allow legacy DSL customers to use their own device, but it depends to some degree on the location — and regardless, they don’t guarantee speeds or support when you forego their approved equipment lease.

Sonic fiber service requires that you lease the router. With all plans, you’re welcome to use your own router (or a mesh network like Eero) on top, by putting the stock router in bridge mode.

However, you cannot avoid the equipment fee, as you can with Xfinity, by foregoing the equipment. With this in mind, we recommend that most Sonic customers should simply use the Sonic equipment, since it comes with advanced support and free service visits.

AT&T vs Sonic Internet-Only Plan Comparison

Most Common Plan Internet speed Sign-up price Final price Avg price over 2 yrs
Internet 100 (AT&T) 100 Mbps $49.99/mo. $59.99/mo. $55/mo.
Fusion X1 (Sonic) 20 Mbps $39.99/mo. $49.99/mo. $44.99/mo.

The price of the AT&T Internet 100 internet plan is $49.99/month for the first Contract-Free. However, the price then rises 20% to a final price of $59.99.

So, that means the price you actually pay for internet, averaged over two years, is $55/month.

Remember that Internet 100 includes the following fees when you compare pricing:

  • $10/month fee for WiFi equipment
  • Fees for using more than 1 TB

Let’s compare that to Sonic:

The price of the Sonic Fusion X1 internet plan is $39.99/month for the first 12. However, the price jumps up 25% to $49.99 after that initial period.

So, the price of Sonic internet is actually $44.99/month, when averaged over two years.

Fusion X1 comes with some fees as well:

  • $9.50/month fee for WiFi equipment
  • Early termination fee if you break the contract

AT&T vs Sonic Internet Plans

AT&T and Sonic plans are similar in that your experience depends greatly on the maximum speed at your location.

AT&T Internet Plans

AT&T has the same or similar pricing regardless of the maximum speed. They also charge the same for DSL and fiber, which is great if you’re in a fiber area… and not-so-great if you’re in a DSL area.

Plan NameDownload SpeedPromo PriceFinal Price
Internet Basic 55 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99
Internet 2525 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99
Internet 5050 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99
Internet 100100 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99
Internet 10001000 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99

Sonic Internet Plans

Sonic has some of the best pricing for fiber in the state of California, but their plans come with an odd quirk — they require you to purchase landline phone service as part of the deal. While it’s still very cheap, it’s an odd move in 2020 when many customers (especially fiber customers) have no use for a landline phone (even if it is a high-quality VoIP setup).

That said, it doesn’t impact the pricing, so we don’t consider it a negative on value. It’s common for customers to simply not use it, or use it as a second line for personal or business purpose.

Plan NameDownload SpeedFinal Price
Fusion X120 Mbps$49.99
Fusion X240 Mbps$69.99
Fusion Fiber1000 Mbps$50
Page Summary
  • Fiber internet is available from both Sonic and AT&T in the Bay Area, but not at the same locations. We recomend that you choose the provider with the fastest speed at your building.
  • Power users will appreciate Sonic customer service, and the option for a static IP in some DSL service areas.
  • AT&T has more TV options, but they come at a steep price. Sonic has the most reliably unlimited service, while AT&T has moved back and forth between limiting and unlimiting internet plans in the past.

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Last Update: September 17, 2020
Published: June 28, 2020
CC BY-ND 4.0

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