Hey, speed demons! San Francisco to get a gig!

The Sonic.net employees. Look for them in your neighborhood, San Francisco.

Sonic.net, an independent Internet service provider in San Francisco, has said it plans to roll out a gigabit network to the city, putting the hub of today’s tech and web community on equal footing with Chattanooga, Tenn., and eventually both Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., where Google (s goog) plans to build a fiber network. Sonic.net has applied to lay fiber to 2,000 homes in the Sunset District and plans to reach most of the city’s buildings within five years.

Perhaps the question of which needs to come first, the gigabit network or the applications that will cause customers to pay for such a network, can finally be put to rest. If the geeks in San Francisco have such a sandbox to play in, as well as a few gigabit hubs in the rest of the U.S., surely we will get to answer the question of what a gigabit can do.

The eventual all-fiber network would be served from approximately 188 outdoor utility cabinets, and construction of the network will begin next year if Sonic.net can get the permits. That is not a given, considering San Francisco’s reputation for frustrating technology projects. Sonic.net is a familiar entity for many Bay Area residents, as the company has been offering copper-line DSL and telephone service to people. Its CEO, Dane Jasper, has also been very outspoken on several consumer issues such as broadband caps and ISPs’ trying to use deep packet inspection technologies to try to deliver ads. From the release:

“San Francisco is our fastest-growing market for copper delivered Fusion Broadband+Phone service today, so we are very excited to bring our Fiber-optic upgrade process to the city,” said Dane Jasper, CEO & Co-Founder of Sonic.net. “There is a huge demand in San Francisco for higher bandwidth services, and fiber is the only long-term way to meet this demand.”

Sonic.net also has deployed fiber to the home in Sebastopol, Calif., at two price packages — one delivering 100 Mbps (and voice) for $40 per month and one delivering a full gig for $70 per month. The company also plans to expand its operations out of the state, Jasper told me earlier this year. Regardless, other San Francisco providers such as Comcast and AT&T (s t) should be worried. They are getting some real competition, and I can’t wait to see the results.