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Americans living off base in Japan and Okinawa can find a wide variety of telecommunication options available, many of which turn out to be cheaper and of higher quality than what they would find on base.

While getting access to the American Forces Network or other English language television channels can be challenging, off-base residents have access to some of the fastest Internet speeds in the world, along with several Voice Over Internet Protocol phone services, including Vonage and Skype.

Evelyn Nanaumi, office manager at Sunny Net, an off-base Internet provider on Okinawa, said the biggest complaint she hears about on-base Internet service is the speed.

“They say it’s too slow,” she said.

NTT, Yahoo BB, Sunny Net and many other providers offer fiber-optic Internet, some of which can, in ideal conditions, deliver data transmission rates of 1 gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps).

“It’s much faster off base,” said Katrina Snouffer, an Air Force spouse on Okinawa. “The cost isn’t that bad; we called around a few places.”

Snouffer said she doesn’t have VOIP service but plans to set it up soon.

Near Tokyo, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Milter of the 374th Communications Squadron lives outside Yokota Air Base and said he pays for a fiber-optic package that includes VOIP and a 700 Mbps Internet connection, which he uses to watch videos and play games online.

“It was pretty easy to get set up,” Milter said, adding that the Japanese company he went to had some English language support.

Staff Sgt. Marlesha Rodgers, another off-base resident and member of Yokota’s 374th Communications Squadron, said Internet speed isn’t that important to her as long as the price is right.

She says she pays about 2,000 yen (about $20) every other month for her Internet, which she uses to stay in touch with family and friends via MySpace, e-mail and instant messenger programs.

Chief Petty Officer Brian McDay, who lives off base in Sasebo, Japan, said his family in the United States doesn’t use e-mail much so he keeps in touch with a SoftBank cell phone and military calling cards.

The system works well, but McDay said he’d like to have access to Americable’s Internet-based telephone service, which offers unlimited calling to the United States for $29.99 per month but is only available to residents on Sasebo Naval Base.

Internet-based phone service can be found off base through NTT Communications Corp. but the cost is $60 to $65 per month, according to Sasebo’s United Service Organizations, which connects customers with the Japanese provider.

Meanwhile, McDay said he subscribes to the satellite cable service Sky PerfecTV and for about $35 per month gets access to roughly 15 American channels, including movies and Fox News.

Overall, staying connected isn’t particularly expensive, McDay said.

“It’s probably about what you would pay in the States,” he said.

Will Morris and Travis Tritten contributed to this story.

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