90-year-old Aaron Epstein sits in front of a computer screen showing speed-test results.

Enlarge / Aaron Epstein after conducting a speed test on his new AT&T fiber service, in a picture taken by his wife, Anne. (credit: Anne Epstein)

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.

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