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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — There’s an alternative to hooking up with a Japanese Internet provider to watch stateside television.

Some servicemembers have learned they can cut out the middleman.

Air Force Lt. Col. David Sonntag, for example, enjoys watching Salt Lake City cable programs in his home in Tokyo. In July, he bought a Slingbox for $250 and hooked it up to the cable television connection in his mother’s home in Utah.

"The Slingbox goes on whoever’s cable connection you want to get on good graces with," said Sonntag, deputy director, Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development. "In my case, my mom has a cable box in her downstairs area that she rarely uses."

She has broadband Internet over a phone line and provides adequate speed for quality video, he said.

"We’re getting pretty good reception," he said. "It’s watchable." His biggest problem, he said, is not having a DVR so he can record the programs and watch them later.

He said the Slingbox was fairly easy to set up.

"The interface is actually pretty slick," he said. "You download the Sling Media player software on pretty much any computer that you have admin rights, and then you give it the unique serial number for your Slingbox."

The software on the remote computer finds the Slingbox and streams it into his computer, Sonntag said.

"Once that happens, you actually get a little replica of the Comcast cable box, so it’s just like navigating through Comcast," he said.

"I know a bunch of expats here who have one, and they like it," he said. "Most of them own their own homes in the U.S., so they just piggyback off their own cable connections."

He said his American friends hook up their laptops to their TVs, but he can’t because his TV doesn’t have the necessary video output for his laptop. But he plans on upgrading.

"Right now, we’re all just kind of crowding around my laptop at the kitchen table," he said with a chuckle.

Sonntag said the drawback for getting your own Slingbox is needing to have that someone on the other side come through for you.

"For 250 bucks, it’s nice to have the option," he said of his overall satisfaction. "But, the other thing you’re depending on is whatever the programming is on the other end.

"I asked my mom: ‘Hey, I wouldn’t mind getting HBO or some extra channels. Can I pay you extra for that?’ And she says: ‘Well, I have an aversion to having R-rated movies, and I don’t want to have those kinds of things on over here.’ So we can’t really custom tailor the programming as we would like it.

"Now if we owned our own house, I suppose that would nice. We could watch whatever we were subscribing to."


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