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90-year-old man takes out $10K ads to tell AT&T CEO about slow service

"Why is AT&T a leading communications company, treating us so shabbily in North Hollywood?" Aaron Epstein wrote in his Wall Street Journal ad.

A 90-year-old California man frustrated with his slow AT&T internet service took out two newspaper ads totaling $10,000 to tell the company's CEO that he needs to do a better job of providing his North Hollywood neighborhood with faster speed.

Aaron M. Epstein said he's been an AT&T customer since 1960 and only started having issues with his internet speed in the last five years when internet streaming became widely available.

He said he was paying for 3.5 Mbps, but it couldn't handle streaming.

"When I would watch a movie on Netflix or some other streaming service, it was like a slideshow. It would start and stop, start and stop, very frustrating," he said in a phone interview Friday.

Epstein said he started calling the company to ask for faster service but was told that it wasn't available in his area.

Image: Advertisement for AT&T CEO
A 90-year-old California man took out two ads in the Wall Street Journal to let AT&T's CEO know about his abysmal internet service speed.Courtesy Dow Jones

Epstein said he didn't want to change to another internet provider because he was concerned about having to change his phone number and email address, so he decided to take out two ads in The Wall Street Journal to vent his frustration.

A spokesperson for The Wall Street Journal confirmed that the ads ran in the Feb. 3 edition of the newspaper; one in New York and the other in Texas where AT&T has a headquarters in Dallas. The spokesperson declined to comment on how much Epstein paid for the ads.

Epstein titled the ads, "Open Letter to Mr. John T. Stankey CEO AT&T."

"Many of our neighbors are the creative technical workers in the Universal, Warner Brothers, Disney studios in the adjacent city of Burbank and our city. We need to keep up with current technology and have looked to AT&T to supply us with fast internet service," it reads.

"Yet, although AT&T is advertising speeds up to 100 MBS for other neighborhoods, the fastest now available to us from ATT is only 3 MBS. Your competitors now have speeds of over 200 MBS. Why is AT&T a leading communications company, treating us so shabbily in North Hollywood?"

The day the ads ran, Epstein said he received a call from Stankey's office asking him how they could resolve the situation. Earlier this week, he received a surprise: two AT&T technicians who arrived at his home to set up a faster internet speed.

"It's definitely a lot faster and it's everything I expect of it," he said of his new service.

Epstein said that some people have praised him for what he did while others criticized him over the hefty price for the ads.

"I'm not a frivolous spender of money and $10,000 means a lot to me, but in this particular instance it was money well spent," he said, explaining that he and his wife have been passing the time during the coronavirus pandemic by streaming TV shows and movies.

"People are not going to expensive restaurants. People are not going on fancy vacations. My wife and I are at home and watch Netflix and streaming services more. So, I have no complaints whatsoever about spending this kind of money," he said.

Epstein said he received a phone call from Stankey and he thanked the CEO for the upgraded service. He also asked that his neighbors receive faster internet speed.

An AT&T spokesperson said Friday that the company has completed its planned expansion of AT&T Fiber, a faster internet speed, in Epstein's neighborhood.

"This neighborhood was already planned to receive fiber and is part of our ongoing fiber expansion in the larger Los Angeles area. Nationally, we recently announced that we will bring AT&T Fiber to an additional 2 million residential locations this year," the spokesperson said.