YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Busted deadlines, contract confusion and seemingly high prices: Welcome to the world of communications technology in South Korea.

Wednesday brought additional twists to a tangled mess involving U.S. military community residents using home computers to make cheap international phone calls.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials said Wednesday afternoon that South Korean-provided voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, service “technically” had been available at on base LG DACOM concession stands since Saturday, even as U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. B.B. Bell released a statement Sunday saying the contract had been delayed.

Under an agreement negotiated earlier this year between U.S. Forces Korea and South Korean Internet service providers, any U.S. personnel who hadn’t signed up with an American company before May 31 would be required to use South Korean companies.

The South Koreans had long complained the U.S. companies weren’t registered under the South Korean Telecommunications Act, and therefore couldn’t legally do business with troops and civilians stationed here.

On June 1, LG DACOM officials told Stars and Stripes the firm couldn’t provide VoIP to base residents because it was still waiting to complete a contract with AAFES.

Bell released the Sunday message to his community announcing a three-week extension of the deadline to sign up for U.S.-based service because the “AAFES review and signing of the LG DACOM VoIP service plan contract was delayed.”

But Okinawa-based AAFES spokesman Master Sgt. Donovan Potter said Wednesday that when the VoIP contract was signed with LG DACOM in the Pacific on June 2 it was still June 1 in the United States. Potter thought communication issues between the various organizations might have led to the confusion.

The LG DACOM service will be available only to some on-base residents, according to one customer service representative.

Community members living off base — or those in Hannam Village, U.S. Embassy housing or Black Hawk Village — must figure out how to use other commercial services because they don’t fall under the LG DACOM coverage area.

LG DACOM area office officials declined to answer any questions Wednesday afternoon, referring all questions back to Potter.

Bell’s June 3 message stated that “AAFES concessionaires will be providing VoIP services that are comparable in price and level of service found with popular U.S.-based providers.”

But questions as to why LG DACOM is charging about 80 percent more than U.S. companies for a similar — if not inferior — VoIP service went unanswered Wednesday by USFK and AAFES officials.

Both LG DACOM and some American VoIP companies promise unlimited overseas calls for a set monthly fee.

LG DACOM is charging $34.99 a month for VoIP service and $10 a month for a rental phone, and customers must use LG’s $39.95 a month Internet service.

Some of the most popular U.S. companies offer VoIP service for $24.99 a month — often with the first month for free. Many of the U.S. companies provide phones for free and do not dictate which Internet company you use. They also provide customers with a U.S.-based phone number, meaning friends and family in the States can call a computer in South Korea without paying international rates.

LG DACOM officials have said South Korean law prohibits their company from providing the same service. VoIP customers with South Korean companies are assigned South Korea phone numbers.

When queried Wednesday evening as to whether Bell was satisfied with the service offered to his community, spokesman David Oten replied: “We stand by Gen. Bell’s statements in the (June 3) message.”

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