Yokota faces disruption of cable, broadband Internet service
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Premium cable television and broadband Internet service will cease for several months at Yokota this fall. Just how long it will be gone remains unclear.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has completed a deal with Allied Telesis, a Shinegawa-based firm that will integrate video, voice and data services into a “triple-play” package for base customers using a super-fast fiber-optic network, officials confirmed Friday. The two sides agreed Sept. 2 on a 15-year contract but services aren’t expected to be available until sometime in 2007. Americable’s 10-year contract with Yokota ends Oct. 25.
Allied Telesis must install its own fiber-optic network and infrastructure because it and Americable could not agree on a sale price for Americable-owned equipment, said Col. Scott Goodwin, the 374th Airlift Wing commander.
The longtime provider won’t be granted another extension that could ensure service continuity in the interim despite the government’s recent announcement that it’s lifted its ban on doing business with the company.
“The base and AAFES knew that Americable was applying to have that debarment lifted,” Goodwin said. “But we could not in good faith delay in seeking a follow-on contract, pending the outcome of that decision. The contracting process had to move forward.”
Larry Salgado, the Yokota Exchange’s general manager, said AAFES could not negotiate with Americable while the corporation was barred from doing business with the government. However, Americable has taken steps indicating interest in becoming an AAFES vendor, he added.
James Smith, Americable International president and CEO, said in an e-mail that final notices would be sent to Yokota customers but did not say when.
“We’ll work to minimize the turbulence to the base population as best we can,” Goodwin said, “but there will be a lag time.”
The cable TV lineup after Oct. 25 until Allied Telesis begins operations will feature only the American Forces Network channels and a few Japanese commercial stations, at no cost.
Goodwin said the base would be unable to provide broadband Internet over the cable network but said Japan Telecom, another AAFES merchant on base, is an alternative.
“They support the full range of broadband services,” he said. “For those using Voice Over Internet Protocol, any broadband connection should support the service.” VoIP in effect lets people make long-distance phone calls for the price of a local call.
Customers seeking high-speed Internet won’t be charged Japan Telecom’s $50 connection fee if they switch their service before Oct. 25, Salgado said. Those who’ve signed up with Japan Telecom since Aug. 1 can pick up $50 gift certificates.
Goodwin said commercial telephone service, through the 374th Communications Squadron, would continue until the new company is in place.
Allied Telesis has not disclosed the pricing structure for its various services.
Goodwin has said base officials will work with the company to “make sure charges are fair, reasonable and competitive as well as that there are tiered options for base residents to choose from.”
Allied Telesis also has not yet disclosed its cable TV channel lineup, although Salgado said the company hopes to do so in December. He said AAFES plans a survey to seek feedback about which channels eventually will be offered.
Allied Telesis will offer a range of Internet connection speeds, Salgado said. Capacity of up to 3 megabytes can be tapped for computer gaming. Customers with VoIP will be given a U.S. number for use any time.
“We only ask that the base be patient,” Goodwin said. “We’re doing everything possible to work this issue.”