CAMP ZAMA, Japan — Some Camp Zama soldiers are looking forward to bringing along their laptops to access free wireless Internet on base — the key word being "free."

To date, Zama is the only major military base in Japan and Okinawa to charge for Wi-Fi. The Army base’s wireless accessibility includes the food court, the Zama Community Club and the Zama Lodge.

To access Wi-Fi at any of those sites requires buying a Softbank "J-Spot" card at one of two vending machines on base or buying one through a company representative at Building 406. The card costs $10 for three days of wireless use, $20 for seven days and $50 for 30 days.

None of which pleases soldiers on the base.

Pfc. Shawntavia Smith of 441st Military Intelligence Battalion said she was frustrated with the Internet situation at the Zama Lodge when she stayed there after arriving.

"You have to go downstairs (to the lobby) and use their whole, two computers," Smith said. "Luckily, I had a laptop, but it’s still $10 for three days."

Capt. Luis Caraballo of the 35th Commissary Support Battalion said he often stays at the Zama Lodge when he travels to Camp Zama from Sagami Depot.

"You’re already paying for the hotel," he said. "You’re being abused. Ten dollars for three days is a lot of money.

"[Wi-Fi’s] not even in the rooms, it’s just the lobby," Caraballo added. "Even when you go to a hotel in the States, you can expect free Internet most of the time."

Some relief is on its way.

Kyoko Taniguchi, a spokeswoman for Camp Zama’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department, said the Zama Lodge will replace the Wi-Fi in the lobby with free Internet hookups in the rooms starting in February.

Edward Devlin, Zama’s Exchange manager, said it was only recently that a customer complained about having to pay for Wi-Fi at the food court.

"While I’m here, before I leave, there will be free wireless out in our food court, and that will be an expense that AAFES will absorb," he said. "Personally, I think it would be a benefit to our customers to be able to use it for free.

"Especially to these young guys in the barracks — to come over and sit down and have a cup of coffee and use their laptop without having to pay for it."

The community club, however, is a different story.

John Shoda, the business operations chief for U.S. Army Garrison Japan MWR, said Wi-Fi can’t be made free at the club because U.S. Army Family and MWR Command mandates that the club "must utilize the Army Recreation Machine Program," which supplies the J-Spot card machine.

Sgt. George Dillabough, also of the 441st MI Battalion, said he’s been to places like Yokota Air Base that have free Wi-Fi and likes the idea of it being offered at Zama.

"Heck yeah, to be able to grab a laptop and not having to necessarily be locked in at the house … it’d be very convenient," said Dillabough. "It’s something that they should offer, particularly for single soldiers who are kind of pinching pennies."

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