Yokota residents lament gap in cable service
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Base residents are not happy about the gap in cable services they face starting this fall, with many saying planners should have done more to provide continuity until a new provider comes aboard.
“They need to provide us with something, and not just leave you waiting until the next guy comes along,” Christina Farris said while out shopping with her husband, Tim, a 730th Air Mobility Squadron staff sergeant. “Someone screwed up. They should’ve had some alternatives so we’re not left with nothing.”
The current provider, Americable, is unplugging its cable TV and Internet services Oct. 25, to be replaced sometime in 2007 by Allied Telesis.
The switch means residents will have no premium channel offerings until Allied sets up its infrastructure. Residents also must sign up with another company for Internet service during the interim.
Americable stated in a customer notice last week that it was “disappointed” in the apparent unwillingness of the base and Army and Air Force Exchange Service — which is administering the new contract with Allied Telesis — to grant a second contract extension preserving Americable service continuity or to allow it to remain as a competing brand.
The Department of Defense recently ended a two-year restriction that banned Americable from seeking new government business. The ban stemmed from a former Americable comptroller fraud conviction two years ago.
“We appreciate everything Americable did for us and our relationship was great,” Capt. Warren Comer, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman, said Saturday night. “Unfortunately, we had to go in a different direction because of the debarment and we couldn’t go back after negotiating with the new provider. We had to ensure the next contract was in place in order to act in the best interest of the people here at Yokota.”
In a letter published in the Aug. 25 edition of the Fuji Flyer, the base newspaper, Col. Scott Goodwin, the 374th Airlift Wing commander, wrote that Yokota officials sought another waiver to extend Americable’s contract and fill the gap in cable service “but found little support for that initiative.”
Master Sgt. Juan Coley of the 374th Maintenance Operations Squadron said Saturday he believes the Yokota planners waited too long to address the situation.
“They should’ve weighed in on this a year ago instead of waiting until the last minute,” he said. “We shouldn’t feel the pain for someone else’s mistakes in poor planning.”
He said his family plans to change its Internet plan from Americable to Japan Telecom, the AAFES vendor inside the Yokota Community Center and Yokota’s only remaining option.
But Coley’s daughter, Imani, a Yokota Middle School eighth-grader, says she’ll be more upset about losing premium cable television.
“It’s not fair our cable is being taken away,” she said. “… How am I gonna watch any Christmas movies in December, if ABC Family is gone? People at my school love music videos, but they don’t realize it’s gonna be gone soon.”
Rebecca Leachman said her family switched from Japan Telecom to Americable’s broadband Internet service in August, not knowing it was on the way out. She opted to leave Japan Telecom after using it for more than two years, saying she encountered frequent connection problems and received little technical support.
“Americable was great with us,” Leachman added. “I’m still hoping they won’t leave. … We’re going to try to go without Internet. It’s such a hassle changing and my husband says he won’t go back to [Japan Telecom].”
“I don’t think it’s fair we don’t have a choice. As difficult as it is being overseas, it’s tough when you only have limited options.”
There are two Internet providers for the Marine bases on Okinawa. Konnect, operated by KDDI-Okinawa and sponsored by Marine Corps Community Services, competes with Mediatti Broadband Communications and recently offered a new high-speed ADSL service.
Staff Sgt. Erwin Spears, of the 374th Maintenance Operations Squadron, said he and his wife won’t use Japan Telecom and are resigned to go without Internet for a while.
“We’ve got more important things to worry about,” Spears said. “For others, it may be a big deal. For us, we don’t care if they get extended or not. We really don’t.”
Tim and Christina Farris, who take University of Maryland University College classes online, say otherwise.
“We don’t want to switch, then have to switch over again” to Allied Telesis, Christina Farris said.
Said her husband: “I honestly think they should’ve planned ahead a little better. … They knew for a while the contract was going to end, but someone dropped the ball.”
Internet service from Japan Telecom
Americable charged Yokota Air Base residents $55.75 a month for its non-premium-channel “Tier 1” cable TV and Internet service package.
When the company leaves Oct. 25, the base will continue proving basic channels but residents must sign up with Japan Telecom for Internet service (call DSN 225-4164).
Japan Telecom is waiving its $50 connection fee if customers switch their service before Oct. 25. Its current monthly rates are: