American Forces Radio and Television Service technicians are upgrading cable access and distribution systems in all of the military housing areas in Italy, and by week’s end, thousands of American Forces Network viewers should be able to receive all 10 of AFN’s channels, officials said.

AFRTS spent about $80,000 to upgrade the old cable access system in base housing, barracks, and military-run housing areas in Italy, mostly in hopes of giving AFN viewers a chance to watch the Winter Olympics in Turin, which ended this weekend, said Andreas Friedrich, the service’s deputy director.

For the most part, technicians succeeded in meeting that goal, he said, though some government housing units in Sicily and Sardinia are still being worked on this week.

“Some of the [systems] were installed in the mid-90s and never upgraded by housing,” said Paul Merlino, AFN-South chief engineer, based in Vicenza, Italy. “AFRTS agreed to fund the upgrades so we could ensure everyone had everything.”

A year ago, AFN bolstered its programming with additional channels. But because of the outdated access systems at some housing units, not all AFN viewers were able to receive the full package, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Kevin Carson, the AFN station manager in Naples, Italy.

After the upgrades are complete, viewers will receive all 10. Additionally, the picture quality will improve, Carson said.

“[Access] was different for every housing area here in Naples, and over the years, as AFN expanded its service, housing wasn’t able to keep up with the advancements,” Carson said.

At Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, technicians upgraded cable access at the barracks at both NAS I and II, and the Marinai and Mineo housing units, said station manager Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey Wells.

The upgrades were needed only at military-run housing units, and have no impact on the decoder/satellite systems used by people who rent their houses from private landlords.

Free decoders, satellites

The supply of free American Forces Network decoders and satellites, for now, is greater than the demand, a Navy official said.

To date, Navy Region Europe — which announced in December it would distribute the decoders for free to Europe-based sailors, families and employees — has about 2,000 decoders in stock, and slightly fewer than 1,000 people throughout the region who have signed up at their local housing offices to receive the system, spokesman Chief Petty Officer John Musser said.

Contractors now are starting to make appointments to have the requested decoders and satellites installed at people’s homes.

Those signing up for the free systems need to have a form letter, provided by local housing offices and signed by landlords, before officials can make installation appointments.

— Stars and Stripes

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now