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“Hot spots” — places where laptop users can access high-speed, wireless Internet — already exist at Yokosuka Naval Base, but users are charged for the service. More hot spots with free access are scheduled to appear on base this spring.
“Hot spots” — places where laptop users can access high-speed, wireless Internet — already exist at Yokosuka Naval Base, but users are charged for the service. More hot spots with free access are scheduled to appear on base this spring. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — It was a strange sight to behold: a sailor holding his laptop computer aloft in search of an early morning signal at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Fleet Recreation Center.

He was trying to get online but the computer office was closed, the sailor explained to base Master Chief William Holz, who happened to be walking by.

“That was telling us something,” Holz said. “Our sailors want mobility. They want to be on the Internet. We need to make Wi-Fi bigger and available to everyone.”

Wi-Fi — short for wireless fidelity — allows laptop computer users high-speed, wireless Internet at certain locations called “hot spots.”

Yokosuka Naval Base already has several hot spots run at a profit through the Japan Enhanced Network Services Corp. JENS charges $10 to $50 for access cards with code numbers. Users plug in the code on the company’s Web site to get online at the recreation center and the base’s two food courts.

Several new Wi-Fi hot spots will crop up this spring and will be free for all, Holz and base commanding officer Capt. Greg Cornish said in an interview Friday.

“The need was there and we saw it,” Cornish said. “Everyone on the installation will benefit. We’re very excited about it.”

The first priority is getting Wi-Fi to Fleet Recreation Center for the shipboard sailors and to the base’s main indoor gathering spots, Cornish said. Wi-Fi will be installed in outdoor locations, too, so people can surf the Web under the cherry blossoms or during a picnic on the grass, he said.

Funding will come from the Morale, Welfare and Recreation budget. Projected costs for the project were not given, as the service contract still is being negotiated, base spokesman Bill Doughty said.

Easier Internet access likely will be a relief for Fireman Recruit Russell Mason, who said he isn’t all that pleased with JENS’ J-Spot cards.

“It’s not just a matter of cost — I can understand making us pay a little for Internet — but the cards aren’t easy to use,” Mason said.

For Seaman Kinnon Le Floor, the magic word is “free.” He spends $50 almost every month to get online, he said.

“Free is a lot better than 50 bucks a month,” Le Floor said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Greg Tyler contributed to this report.

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