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Community members wait in a long line Tuesday outside SoftBank Telecom, formerly Japan Telecom, to register for Internet services at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Base residents scrambled to switch providers ahead of Americable’s departure at midnight Wednesday.
Community members wait in a long line Tuesday outside SoftBank Telecom, formerly Japan Telecom, to register for Internet services at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Base residents scrambled to switch providers ahead of Americable’s departure at midnight Wednesday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — With Americable flipping its switch off this week, residents scrambled to hook up with the base’s lone remaining Internet provider, forming long lines at SoftBank Telecom — formerly Japan Telecom — in the Yokota Community Center.

At midnight Wednesday, Americable was slated to cease paid cable television and broadband Internet services at Yokota after its 10-year franchise agreement with the base officially ended.

SoftBank Telecom was waiving the $50 connection fee if customers changed their service by the close of business Wednesday; midnight Wednesday was the deadline to pick up the $50 gift certificates the company offered to those who came over after Aug. 1 but paid the connection fee.

Allied Telesis Capital Corp., the installation’s new provider of integrated voice, video and data services, plans to have Internet and telephones running in early January and a cable television package by May, company representatives announced two weeks ago.

Until then, Yokota’s TV lineup will feature just the American Forces Network, Commander’s Access Channel, Services channel and a few Japanese commercial stations.

To get Internet access, many already had switched to SoftBank Telecom, an Army and Air Force Exchange Service merchant.

“We estimated there were 600 people that needed to come over from Americable,” said Brett McCormick, services business manager for AAFES at Yokota and camps Zama and Fuji.

“They’ve been trickling in the last few weeks about 20 or 30 a day,” he said. “But the lines really began Monday,” when SoftBank Telecom signed up 220 new Internet subscribers.

As many were expected on Tuesday, he said — and about 20 people already were waiting 15 minutes before the SoftBank Telecom office opened at 10 a.m.

“They’ve been staying open a little later to accommodate everyone,” McCormick said.

Staff Sgt. Michael Flossic of the 730th Air Mobility Squadron found himself at the end of the line Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve been procrastinating,” he said. “I’ve seen that the lines have been pretty long the past few days. … If I don’t wait today, I’ll have to wait tomorrow. … just be prolonging the inevitable.”

Still, he wound up leaving, saying he’d try it again Wednesday.

Tech. Sgt. James Connor of the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron said he’d been in the line for an hour and 15 minutes Tuesday.

“I drive the mail to Narita in my job,” he said. “As soon as I parked the truck and was done for the day, I headed here as fast as I could. Then I saw the line and wished I’d brought my iPod with me.” But, he said, “I’m willing to wait for however long it takes.”

Airman Wesley Smith, of the 374th Security Forces Squadron, said he just arrived at Yokota last Friday and was unaware of the base’s cable TV and Internet situation.

“I found out during in-processing,” he said after an hour-long wait on Tuesday. “I was not really expecting a line.”

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