YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Web surfers at Navy bases in Japan are getting another option: faster Internet connections.

Late last week, Americable technicians connected the first cable Internet customer at Yokosuka. More customers received the service this weekend, and Americable promises the service soon will be available base-wide.

“Just like with the cable television, we are installing by zones,” said Mickey McCallum, Americable’s Internet services manager for Japan. “So as people start getting tags on their doorknobs, they’ll know that we can install the service in their area.”

Yokosuka is the first base to get wired for the service, which uses the same infrastructure recently installed when Americable took over the base’s television contract.

Americable officials said they soon will offer cable Internet to the Negishi housing area, Sasebo Naval Base and Naval Air Facility Atsugi, among other Navy installations in Japan.

Until now, Yokosuka base residents have had to rely on dial-up Internet service, which they complained was slow and overcrowded.

With the new service, Americable says, customers can sign up for unlimited usage of connections from 128 kilobytes-per-second to 256 kbps to “unlimited,” which generally runs at 750 kbps.

Customers say they already are noticing the difference.

“Wow. I’m impressed,” said Len Franchebois, the first customer to be connected to an unlimited account on Yokosuka.

“With a graphics-intensive site like this, it used to take about 20 minutes” to connect to the Internet. “This one came up in about ten seconds,” he said, gesturing at the Star Wars-related Web site he pulled up to demonstrate the new service.

Franchebois lives in a Yokosuka high-rise tower, which was among the first areas to be connected. Until Thursday, he had been logging on via a dial-up modem.

An added benefit, he said, was that the new service doesn’t tie up his phone line. Technicians simply use his existing cable wires to connect his computer, leaving both his phone line and his cable television unaffected.

“If the customer has their computer in the same room or nearby the existing cable socket, then we can just plug them in,” McCallum said. “If not, we use a ‘splitter’ to connect the modem.”

McCallum said the service works on all IBM-compatible computers; customers with Macintosh computers must have “Power PC” software to get the service, he said.

All Yokosuka housing areas should be offered the service within six to nine months, McCallum added.

Customers do not need to subscribe to cable television to get the Internet service but those who sign up for both get a 15 percent discount off the total cost of both.

Basic monthly rates for the new Internet links are $44.95 for the 128 kbps service; $51.95 for the 256 kbps service and $55.75 for the unlimited service. There also is a $50 one-time registration fee.

Previously, Internet access for base residents was offered only by the JENS Corp., which worked with AT&T on military phone contracts. JENS’ dial-up Internet service has a $20 registration fee. It costs $9.90 per month for 15 hours, after which it’s 2 cents per minute; or $30 a month for 90 hours, after which it’s 3 cents a minute.

Americable’s cable television service is offered in three tiers. The basic, or military, tier is free; Tier I costs $35.95 per month; Tier II, $45.95 per month. All base housing is wired; residents can choose to pay or watch the free tier.

JENS officials also have promised faster wireless Internet, but according to the company’s Web site, that service is available only at Misawa in northern Japan.

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