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Broadband: Why The U.S. Is Likely To Fall Further Behind

"Behind in broadband" (Information Technology, Sept. 6-13) described quite clearly that U.S. policies and the actions of the incumbent Bell telephone companies will cause the U.S. to fall even further behind other economically developed countries in terms of broadband deployment. Recent legal actions by the Bell telephone companies to block fair and open access to their local networks at cost-effective rates will eliminate any progress that has been made. Why are pro-competitive regulatory policies still essential for the U.S.? The incumbent Bell phone companies inherited a monopoly infrastructure that remains the only ubiquitous last-mile access to the doorstep of every home and business.

Access to the last-mile network is, in essence, a public good and must remain available on an unbundled basis to competitors seeking to provide new and innovative services. Those competitors, such as XO Communications Inc. (XOCM), have invested billions of dollars to build the most technologically advanced networks capable of providing innovative broadband services demanded by businesses and consumers.

For these investments to continue, competitive carriers need the assurance that they will have access to last-mile facilities at cost-effective rates.

Carl J. Grivner, CEO

XO Communications

Reston, Va.

In "Drugs via Canada? The side effects could hurt" (Economic Viewpoint, Aug. 23-30), Robert J. Barro makes an unconvincing effort to prove that Canadians ultimately lose by paying less for drugs than do people in the U.S. Yes, reimportation is a sure sign of a less-than-perfect market, but the main imperfection here is that the demand for drugs is artificially high, since prescriptions are financed mostly through taxes and insurance, not out of patients' own pockets. Sadly, Barro offers no cure for the real problem -- soaring drug costs -- and he apparently rejects negotiated prices. Since physicians have few incentives to curb spending, negotiated pricing may be as close to a perfect drug market as we can get. What other industry has a problem with customers trying to strike the best deal?

The pharmaceutical industry has successfully disguised itself as a genuinely competitive business, while it in fact enjoys vast subsidies. "Stifling innovation" by regulating an industry that already is on steroids may not be such a bad idea.

Bertil Myhr


"The executive life" (Aug. 23-30) has a lot of fun-to-read articles, and I'm a regular American who likes all those things. But I think you missed an important part of the executive life. It affords us the work experience, connections, and financial resources to be active participants in the philanthropic causes we find most compelling. That is the best benefit of all.

Christine Owens

Superior, Colo.

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