Ohio resident John Sopko had to go a month without his AT&T fixed wireless Internet service because the company repeatedly failed to diagnose and fix the problem, the Akron Beacon Journal reported today. AT&T finally found out this week that the antenna on Sopko’s roof was broken and needed to be replaced, but only after a parade of support calls and technician visits.
Sopko said he is not a big internet user, but that his girlfriend and her 17-year-old son are. The son has “been with his grandmother since four days after [the outage] started because he needs it for school, “Sopko said. Sopko’s house is either in or near an area where AT&T received U.S. state aid to implement service.
Sopko’s service ceased to operate on October 30th. Restarting the modem did nothing, so he called AT & T’s service phone number and “followed the instructions to restart the system.” It again did nothing, so AT&T sent a technician to his home in Akron, but the technician just repeated the steps that Sopko had already taken, according to the report:
“He went and turned everything off and plugged it in again,” Sopko said. Same result – no connection.
AT&T sent out another technician on November 8th. “He did the same,” Sopko said. “He said it was a technical problem and would send an email.”
More frustration, no explanation from AT&T
Sopko did not hear back from AT&T, so he called the company again a few days after the second technician visit, the Beacon Journal article said. “They said they were ‘troubleshooting’ and said it would be back in a few hours,” he told the newspaper.
The service did not come online again within a few hours, and Sopko said he had to “chase them down” again because AT&T did not call him back. He was eventually able to schedule a time for a technician for November 23rd. But that day “he received another text message confirming an appointment for November 26. An SMS on November 26 confirmed an appointment from 2pm to 4pm. Sopko said he may not have responded in time to that text, so a new agreement was set for December 3, “the newspaper writes.
The Beacon Journal report continued:
Sopko called the service line again on November 26 and spoke with a customer representative. “I will not be angry with you,” he told the representative. “But this has been going on for 28 days now. Why?”
The representative could not give a solid answer, which frustrated Sopko even more. “I’m buying a product that I can not use,” he said. “Tell me the lightning hit a tower; tell me something.”
AT & T’s public funding
Finally, Sopko was contacted Tuesday this week by an AT&T representative, and the company sent what Sopko called a “more advanced technician” to his house on Wednesday. The technician tested the antenna, found that it was not working, and replaced it.
“The ‘antenna’ was a fixed wireless device that the company had installed about a year and a half before. The devices are used primarily in rural areas where cable lines are not in place,” the Beacon Journal noted.
Ohio is one of 18 states where AT&T received $ 428 million a year from the Federal Communications Commission for seven years, starting in 2015, to implement 10 Mbps Internet using wireless technology for 1.1 million homes and small businesses. . It is not clear whether Sopko’s home counts in that implementation, but his address on East Voris Street is very close to other Akron properties, where the FCC map shows subsidized implementation of AT&T.
AT&T is still trying to “determine what happened”
Sopko “received a bill on Tuesday for a month of service he did not receive,” but later received bill credits “and a gift card for his problems,” the Beacon Journal reported. AT&T told the newspaper that “our technicians restored Mr. Sopko’s Internet service and he is satisfied.”
We asked AT&T for an explanation of why it took a month to diagnose and resolve the issue. The company did not explain, but said it is investigating the matter.
“Clearly, this is not an acceptable customer experience and did not live up to our expectations of how we serve our customers,” AT&T told Ars today. “We have apologized to Mr Sopko and credited his account. We are reviewing this case to determine what happened and to prevent it from happening again.”