The exact details of the sign up process can vary widely between companies but for the most part there are some basic rules to follow.
Fiber Optics and DSL
As we discussed in our previous post, there are multiple ways to go about signing up for a connection. If you elect to sign up online through a provider company's website or a comparison site like kakaku.com, you simply have to fill out an online form with name, address, and tell the company what sort of connection type your want (who you want as your carrier if multiple are available, speeds, etc). For the most part, all forms are in Japanese, so bring a friend who reads Japanese or use a provider like Asahi Net which caters to ex-pats. The general flow goes something like this...
Part 1: In order to make sure that your home is covered by your perspective carrier/provider, most companies will require you to fill in a phone number of a near by friend or business. You can use NTTs town page to look up your local convenience store if need be. Also, as you meander your way through the sign up process, many providers will try and get you to sign up for extras like built in wireless modems (not necessary for anyone with a wireless router), spam guard, virus checkers, and what not. Be careful that you don't end up clicking on these unless you want a large monthly bill.You can also use this time to sign up for extras such as internet-routed phone service and TV-via-internet connections.
Also, there are generally two types of packages available, one for unit housing (shugo jutaku 集合住宅) like apartment blocks and one for houses (ikkodate 一戸建て). What constitutes a "house" generally varies by provider, but generally the rule is that if you live in a unit with four or less blocks, you need to sign up for home-type internet.
Part 2: After you have filled out the online forms, your provider will generally give you a customer number. Expect a call from that same company later in the day or the following day confirming your sign up and double checking your address. After that, they will send you forms to set up automated bank transfers or credit card payments and your access password. Remember, don't throw away anything that your provider sends you since it likely contains the password and user name you need to access the net.
Part 3: After the provider calls you up, they will pass you off to your local NTT or au KDDI office who will call to confirm a day to set up your equipment. Make sure you pick a set up date where you will be home! The carrier will also send you some paperwork including bank transfer/credit card payment information and a form that requires a copy of an ID (alien card, drivers license, health insurance card, etc) to verify your real name. If you signed up for telephone service they will also send you the telephone number.
One important thing to remember is to fill out at least two bank transfer/credit card payment forms, one for the provider and one for the carrier. For the most part, you will pay each entity separately, although some providers allow you to merge your bill payments after signing up. If you don't fill out these forms you will be sent a bill payable at a bank or convenience store. However, both carriers and providers generally assess an extra "printing fee" ranging from 105-500 yen a month for each bill.
If you opt to sign up via a retailer, most of the paper work will be handled by the store, but you still have to wait for your carrier to call you and set up an appointment for your installation. Likewise, if you use a local provider, like one owned by a municipality or power company, you will only have to deal with one combined provider-carrier.
Since cable providers are usually small, local franchises, you generally have to call them up yourself, fill out a form on their website, or go directly to their offices. Like DSL/Fiber, you will still have to schedule a set-up time for the company to come to your house and hook you up.
If wi-max or a similar high bandwidth technology is available in your area, the best place to find it is at your local electronics retailer. Big retailers like Yodobashi Camera or Bic Camera generally offer a fairly wide selection and some even give modems away for free if you make a commitment for a year or more. Like conventional internet connections, you still need an valid Japanese ID to verify your real name. One advantage of signing up at a retailer is that you can get the hardware and set up done the same day.
If you buy online, you generally have to go through the same procedures except that before you get your modem shipped off, you have to fill out payment forms by hand and mail them back. Unlike fiber or DSL, you will only have to deal with one company.
If you are looking for a more widely available 3G connection, then you might have better luck going directly to a mobile phone retailer.
That should take care of all your internet sign-up needs. Check back soon for pointers on setting up your connection.
Other Posts in this Series#2 Carriers and Providers
#3 Shopping for Service
#4 Signing up
#6 Optional Services