AT&T couldn’t fix Ohio man’s broken internet service for a month

A man with an umbrella walking in front of a building with the AT&T logo.

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. Akron Beacon Journal reported today. AT&T finally discovered this week that the antenna on Sopko’s roof was broken and had to be replaced, but not until after a parade of support calls and technician visits.

Sopko said he’s not a heavy Internet user, but his girlfriend and 17-year-old son are. The son “has been at his grandmother’s house for four days after [the outage] it started because he needs it for school, “Sopko said. Sopko’s home is in or near an area where AT&T received funding from the US government to implement the service.

Sopko’s service stopped working on October 30. Restarting the modem did nothing, so he called AT & T’s service phone number and “followed the prompts to reboot the system.” That again did nothing, so AT&T sent a technician to his home in Akron, but the technician simply repeated the steps Sopko had already taken, according to the report:

“He went, turned it all off and plugged it back in,” Sopko said. Same result, offline.

AT&T dispatched a second technician on November 8. “He did the same,” Sopko said. “He said it was an engineering problem and he was going to send an email.”

More frustration, no explanation from AT&T

Sopko received no response from AT&T, so he called the company again a couple of days after the technician’s second visit, according to the Beacon Journal article. “They said they were ‘fixing problems’ and said they would be back up and running in a couple of hours,” he told the newspaper.

The service was not back online for a couple of hours, and Sopko said he had to “chase” them again because AT&T did not return his call. He was finally able to schedule an appointment with a technician for November 23. But that day, “she received another text message, confirming an appointment for November 26. A text message on November 26 confirmed an appointment from 2 pm to 4 pm. Sopko said.” It is possible that he did not respond to that text in time, so a new appointment was set for December 3, “the newspaper reported.

The Beacon Journal report continued:

Sopko called the service line again on November 26 to speak with a customer representative. “I don’t want to be mean to you,” he told the representative. “But this has been going on for 28 days. Why?”

The representative was unable to give a solid answer, which further frustrated Sopko. “I am buying a product that I cannot use,” he said. “Tell me that lightning struck a tower; tell me something.”

AT&T government 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 home Wednesday. The technician tested the antenna, found that it was not working, and replaced it.

“That ‘antenna’ was a fixed wireless unit that the company had installed about a year and a half earlier. The units are used primarily in rural areas where cable lines are not in place,” noted the Beacon Journal.

Ohio is one of 18 states where AT&T received $ 428 million from the Federal Communications Commission per year for seven years starting in 2015 to implement 10Mbps Internet using fixed wireless technology in 1.1 million homes and small businesses. It is unclear if Sopko’s home is counted in that display, but her East Voris Street address is in close proximity to other Akron properties where the FCC Map shows AT&T subsidized deployment.

AT&T keeps trying to “determine what happened”

Sopko “received a bill Tuesday for a month’s service that he did not receive” but then 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 fix the problem. The company did not explain, but said it is investigating the matter.

“This is clearly not an acceptable customer experience and it did not meet our expectations for 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.”

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