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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — North Base area residents are being encouraged to switch over to a cheaper Internet usage plan that will save them $20 per month.

Upgrades to base infrastructure recently allowed Japan Telecom, the Internet provider for base housing, to double its bandwidth to Main Base housing residents. Internet connection speeds, as a result, jumped from 1.5 megabits per second to 6 to 10 megabits per second at no extra cost to the customer, said Jay Underwood, Japan Telecom (formerly JENS) area manager.

North Area customers, however, remain capped at 1.5 megabits per second.

Before the equipment upgrade on Main Base, all base customers paid $59.95 a month for “Premium” Internet service, Underwood said. In May, Japan Telecom introduced “DSL Light” — a new service plan which costs $39.95 per month but caps the connectivity speed at 1.5 megabits per second — the fastest available to North Area customers anyway.

“DSL Light” was created “because we think it makes sense for them,” Underwood said of North Area customers. “Now that the speed differences are dramatic, we’re encouraging them to go with the cheaper plan.”

Those same equipment upgrades that gave 6- to 10-megabit-per-second speeds to Main Base residents weren’t possible in the North Area, but Underwood said officials are investigating the possibility of future enhancements.

“The base is looking into how much it will cost, how much construction will be involved — the whole cost versus return,” said base spokesman Capt. John Redfield.

Main Base customers still pay $59.95 a month for the faster connection; they can switch to the cheaper plan but it will mean a reduction in speed, Underwood said.

Though North Area customers still get 1.5 megabits per second, they won’t receive an automatic billing change. “They need to come into the shop and do a plan change,” Underwood said.

Japan Telecom is trying to inform customers about the new option.

“We’re advertising, on signs here in our shop and on our Web site,” Underwood said.

Japan Telecom, in the Misawa Base Exchange complex, can be reached at DSN 222-8180.

Customers can visit www.speedtest.jp to test their current Internet connection speed.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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