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CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — The military’s Internet provider at most bases is giving servicemembers free calls during business hours and has remedied problems for customers with U.S.-based Internet phone contracts signed prior to June 2007, officials said Friday.

LG/Dacom is open at most bases from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will allow anyone in the military community to make Internet calls, Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials said Friday.

In July, LG/Dacom also began selling wireless Internet phones that can be used at any Internet hotspot, in conjunction with a service contract with LG.

Most servicemembers who use Internet phone service, also referred to as voice-over-Internet protocol, do so because it’s cheaper and more convenient than buying calling cards.

Servicemembers in the United States purchase phones and service contracts with popular companies like Vonage or Lingo, obtain a U.S. phone number and bring them to overseas bases.

However, the South Korean government said in 2006 that most foreign companies didn’t comply with the nation’s telecommunications laws and that their use was technically illegal.

Last year, LG/Dacom and U.S. Forces Korea struck a deal that allowed servicemembers who signed contracts with other Internet phone companies prior to June 21, 2007, to continue using them.

However, some servicemembers complained that their U.S. phones weren’t being grandfathered in, despite the agreement.

Those complaints should be resolved by now, said Sean Dorcy, AAFES Capital Exchange general manager.

Servicemembers can bring a pre-deadline contract into any LG/Dacom shop, "and they can continue to honor the grandfather clause," Dorcy said.

Should LG/Dacom not respond for some reason, Dorcy said, anyone still having a problem can contact him.

Dorcy said AAFES is still negotiating with LG/Dacom to make U.S.-based phone numbers available like they are with foreign Internet phone companies, so friends and relatives in the United States won’t have to make international calls to reach servicemembers.

Spc. Joshua Present, who lives on Yongsan Garrison, was one of the soldiers with a grandfathered Vonage phone that was blocked by LG/Dacom.

He said it took months, but after a complaint through the military’s online ICE system, he was able to get LG/Dacom to give him a modem that didn’t block Vonage.

Present says the modem given to most customers blocks the standard port that Vonage uses for most of its phones.

Though his phone issue is fixed, Present says the Internet service itself is twice the price and far slower than the service at his girlfriend’s house, just across the street from Yongsan Garrison.

"But we’re not allowed to use another Internet company on base. It’s a monopoly," Present said.

Off-post companies Korea Telecom and Hanaro — two of South Korea’s largest Internet providers — have told Stripes previously that they have no intention of blocking traffic from U.S.-based Internet phone carriers, though it is technically illegal.

There are no known cases of servicemembers being prosecuted for using unregistered providers.

Servicemembers who want a U.S. phone number can still use Skype (www.skype.com), which is registered with the South Korean government.

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