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Staff Sgt. Ralph Williams, 29, from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron at Kadena Air Base, tests his newly installed high-speed Internet service.
Staff Sgt. Ralph Williams, 29, from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron at Kadena Air Base, tests his newly installed high-speed Internet service. (Mark Rankin / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Ralph Williams sat at his computer Tuesday night, amazed at the speed of his new Internet hookup.

“Look at that,” the Air Force staff sergeant said from his Foster towers apartment. “Things pop up pretty much as fast as I can click on. This is amazing.”

Williams, the first customer on Okinawa to use Mediatti Broadband Communication’s high-speed cable Internet connection, zipped around the World Wide Web.

“We’ll be phasing in high-speed cable Internet to all our customers during the next 90 days,” said John Hadsell, general manager of Mediatti’s Okinawa operation. “Right now, we are sorting through the fiber-optics system and the 32 cable nodes on the bases on Okinawa to define our return path capabilities.” Foster’s apartment towers are the first of the 32 areas to be activated, he said.

On April 15, Mediatti took over the base cable television operation from Americable International of Japan, which brought cable service here 10 years ago. Testing capabilities for “upstreaming,” allowing for a two-way pass of information, was among the first things Mediatti technicians addressed.

“Right now, we only have downstreaming, information from us to the homes,” Hadsell said.

Once the conversions are made, customers will be able to connect to the Internet and make changes to their cable television packages directly, Hadsell said.

“We’ll phase in the Internet service over the next 90 days or so,” said Jeff Fanning, Mediatti’s marketing manager. “We’ll make announcements through [American Forces Network] and the newspaper and set up tables in the localities for people to come and sign up as we move along.”

He asked customers not to call Mediatti with questions about when they’ll receive the new service.

“We’ll get to them soon,” he said.

Hadsell said the Internet service will cost $39.95 per month, with a free tier of cable television channels consisting of AFN, commanders’ channels, CNN and BBC World, and local Japanese channels. Extended tiers offering additional channels and premium movie channels will cost extra. Hadsell said details on the cost of the extra tiers and new channel offerings still are being worked out.

“We will also be offering a 15 percent discount for payments made six months in advance and a 30 percent discount for customers paying a year in advance,” Hadsell said.

Televisions will be connected to the system by small set-top boxes. The Internet connection will be through a splitter, similar to how cable subscribers now access radio channels, he said. Cable Internet is expected to be six to 10 times as fast as the old dial-up connections.

“It only took a few minutes to install,” Fanning said, following Mediatti’s first hookup at Williams’ apartment. “This is the first home we’ve connected, and I was very impressed. It moves very fast.”

Besides the increased speed, he said another advantage of the cable connection is that a customer will not have to worry about how many hours they have been online.

“You can leave it on 24 hours a day,” he said.

Marine Lt. Col. Todd Hyson, deputy commander for camps Foster and Lester, said cable Internet service was an important “quality-of-life issue” implemented by Brig. Gen. Timothy R. Larsen, the former commander of Marine bases on Okinawa.

“This is so much better than the dial-up connection,” said Williams who is assigned to the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron on Kadena Air Base. “I’ll be able to do research a lot faster and do updates quicker, and my son will be able to play his games faster. And we don’t have to count the hours. … It can’t be beat.”

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