Last week, 90-year-old Aaron Epstein took out a quarter-page ad in the Wall Street Journal hoping to convince AT&T to upgrade his slow-as-molasses DSL internet to fiber. It allegedly cost Epstein $10,000 to take out that ad, but apparently it worked. The North Hollywood, Calif., resident is getting ultra-fast speeds today, and we love that for him.
According to Ars Technica, after Epstein’s story went viral and landed him interviews with TV networks and a brief mention on on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, AT&T showed up to his house this week and installed fiber internet for him and his wife, Anne. The couple now gets over 300 Mbps speeds instead of the 3 Mbps they were getting before.
It wasn’t a simple undertaking for the technicians, but they did connect Epstein and his wife to better internet in just two days. Epstein’s neighbors two or three blocks away already had AT&T Fiber, but for some reason Epstein’s home wasn’t wired for it. Epstein told Ars Technica that AT&T said the extra wiring installation was costing the company “thousands and thousands of dollars.” According to Ars, there was some confusion as to whether AT&T would completely wire Epstein’s neighborhood. AT&T did not mention if his immediate neighbors would be getting fiber internet sometime in the future now that the lines are installed on their street, which connects to the fiber lines in the same neighborhood just a couple blocks away.
Not everyone has $10,000 to drop on a newspaper ad, nor should they have to to compel ISPs to provide equitable internet service. Even Epstein says it was the media picking up his story that prompted AT&T to take action, not necessarily the ad. But if AT&T can, at the drop of a hat, lay fiber to someone’s house in two days even though it allegedly costs them thousands of dollars, then it seems like the ISP should be able to do the same for more neighborhoods—especially areas where residents’ only option is AT&T DSL.
Epstein has been lucky in that regard, however. He has a choice—if you can call it that—between AT&T and Spectrum, but wanted to switch completely to AT&T because his phone service is through them.
Last October, AT&T announced that it would no longer offer DSL as a new service. Those already paying for DSL, like Epstein, would be able to keep their service, but the company would no longer sell DSL plans. This is a major problem, because for many Americans, AT&T DSL is their only internet provider option.
A joint report from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDLA) revealed that AT&T has been connecting newer and more affluent neighborhoods to fiber and only laying fiber foundation in some unserved and underserved areas. Epstein’s case seems to be a textbook example of this happening.
An AT&T spokesperson previously told Ars that its “investment decisions are based on the capacity needs of [its] network and demand for [its] services.” But you shouldn’t have to take out an ad in one of the country’s biggest papers for your demands of better service to be heard.