Without Internet, couple finds connecting pricey
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The spouse of a deployed soldier here says it’s gotten a lot more expensive to keep in touch with her husband since a German telephone company cut off her Internet service.
And the company — Deutsche Telekom — is charging her more than $600 if she wants it back.
Netzaberg resident Sun-Hee Williams, whose husband, Sgt. Kristopher Williams, has been serving in Iraq with the 41st Transportation Company since November, said she returned home from leave in February to find her Internet service cut for failing to pay her bills. Williams said she immediately contacted Deutsche Telekom and paid the 160.96 euros owed along with a 60-euro reconnection fee.
At the time, Telekom agents told her the Internet would be reconnected within days, but two months later, the service has not been restored, she said.
“My husband is really frustrated,” said Williams, adding that the couple used to stay in touch with Internet phone calls and instant messaging. Now they have to rely on more expensive cell phone calls, she said.
“I’m not the only one this has happened to. It happened to a friend of mine,” Williams said. “She went to the States for three weeks because her sister was sick and when she got back her Internet was cut off.”
She’s received different stories from Telekom during at least 10 visits to the company’s off-post agents, Deutsche Post and MK-Center, she said.
“Sometimes they tell me there is no contract. On April 14, they sent me another bill, for 373.86 euros,” she said.
Williams’ last visit to MK-Center resulted in a request for a copy of her husband’s orders and a suggestion that the April 14 bill — the outstanding amount for an entire year’s worth of Internet service — might be waived.
When Stripes contacted staff at Telekom’s on-post agency, they said they didn’t know why Williams’ Internet had not been restored. Calls to Deutsche Telekom’s public affairs staff went unanswered on Friday.
U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr does everything within its means to support spouses of deployed soldiers, according to spokeswoman Kimberley Gillespie. But it cannot solve all problems.
“The Army does not provide special access to any one service provider at leased housing or for housing and barracks on the installation,” Gillespie wrote in an e-mail. “It is the individual’s responsibility to contract with a private company to provide telephone and/or Internet service.
“If a spouse is not getting service or a satisfactory response from a specific provider, it would be recommended that she try service with another company.”
And if a spouse does not have Internet access at home, there are other options, Gillespie said.
“Army Community Service has computers with Internet service available specifically for spouses of deployed soldiers in its dedicated Yellow Ribbon Room,” she said. “The installation library also offers computers with free Internet access.”
Furthermore, if a spouse of a deployed soldier encounters financial hardship, funds are available through Army Emergency Relief in Vilseck and Grafenwöhr, Gillespie wrote. This is an interest-free loan and can be used to pay for utilities, including phone/Internet service.
Spouses of deployed soldiers should feel free to contact their soldier’s rear detachment commander or Family Readiness Group leader for help dealing with German companies, she added.