23 with 21 posters participating
When 90-year-old Aaron Epstein bought a Wall Street Journal print ad to complain about his slow AT&T Internet service, the impact was immediate. Reporters like me called him and wrote articles, talk of his plight went viral on the Internet, his ad made an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, TV networks interviewed him for nightly news broadcasts, and AT&T executives sprang into action to minimize the public-relations damage.
Now, barely a week later, Epstein’s home in North Hollywood, California, has AT&T fiber service with unlimited data and advertised speeds of 300Mbps in both directions. In a speed test yesterday, download speeds were 363Mbps and upload speeds were 376Mbps. It’s a gigantic upgrade over the “up to” 3Mbps DSL he and his wife, Anne, struggled with before.
Normally, complaints about AT&T DSL don’t lead to fiber-to-the-home upgrades the next week, as AT&T has essentially abandoned the old phone network in large parts of the country where AT&T has not deemed it profitable enough to install state-of-the-art technology. But it appears we have discovered what it takes to kick AT&T into its fastest fiber-installation mode, and the answer is a quarter-page Wall Street Journal print ad.
AT&T techs arrive
AT&T called Epstein when our article about his ad was published on Wednesday last week. AT&T technicians knocked on his door the next day to tell him they’d be installing fiber. Yesterday, AT&T techs returned to finish the installation and set up his new service. Epstein is paying $45 a month for the first 12 months, after which it would rise to $65.
“The AT&T people I talked to tell me that they had to install extra wiring, and it’s costing them thousands and thousands of dollars to put this wiring just for my house because my neighbors still do not have it, and they still have to go to considerable expense to hook up my neighbors,” Epstein told Ars.
shared on Twitter, which is where we first saw it.
I mean how upset one must be, over slow home internet speeds, to pay for a personal quarter-page national ad in print @WSJ pic.twitter.com/Zk9umKD0t1
— Raju Narisetti (@raju) February 3, 2021
Epstein said the ad cost him $10,000 (not $1,100 as originally stated). “I chose the only route that I know. There are other people that know how to get up on social networks and voice their complaints,” he said. Epstein has been a customer of AT&T through its various permutations since 1960 and still uses a “pacbell.net” email address from the Pacific Bell brand discontinued nearly 20 years ago.
“My argument with them is, ‘You’re a communications business, stay out of the movie business. Invest your money in what you’re supposed to be doing,'” Epstein said. AT&T earned $171.8 billion in revenue in 2020.
Epstein has both AT&T and Charter’s Spectrum Internet service, as we wrote in our previous article. Charter also got in touch with Epstein after the hubbub started last week to provide him with a better modem. When AT&T installed fiber, Epstein had the AT&T technicians set things up so that he can easily switch between AT&T and Spectrum services to compare them. Epstein also pays for AT&T landline phone service.
“Maybe a month from now, if I am satisfied using AT&T only, I’ll drop Spectrum,” Epstein said.
Disclosure: The Advance/Newhouse Partnership, which owns 13 percent of Charter, is part of Advance Publications. Advance Publications owns Condé Nast, which owns Ars Technica.