- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2001

The lesson of [email protected]: Consumers need choice

Years of debate between long distance, cable and local phone companies about government Internet policy have pitted theory against theory. But last week's collapse of the high-speed Internet service provider [email protected], which pulled the Internet connection plug of 850,000 Americans, injected a cold dose of reality into the policy debate. In addition to the 850,000 customers who lost service, millions more remain subject to service cut-offs, and for most, there are no alternative providers available.

While AT&T, Cox and Comcast sort the mess out with the bankrupt [email protected], the only recourse for their customers is to cross their fingers and hope their cable company can solve the problem. Unfortunately, since broadband service is effectively a monopoly market for two thirds of American consumers and businesses, finding another high-speed provider is not an option. With only one provider to a community, the implicit message is: "Our service or no service." It's even worse for 20 percent of American households that have no broadband access at all.

In virtually every industry and for every other service, consumers benefit from competition. The end results are always more choice and lower prices.

But the broadband market is largely void of competitive forces. Policies enacted in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (prior to internet commercialization) have played a large part in discouraging competitive broadband investment by some of the country's oldest and largest telecommunications companies. As a result, only 8 percent of Americans use broadband access. In South Korea, 40 percent of the citizens have high-speed connections.

For those who need or want high-speed connections to communicate with friends, family, customers and suppliers, broadband access is critical. The many customers recently deprived of e-mail communication as a result of the [email protected] debacle understand that lesson better than anyone. Had a competitive market place existed for broadband, the customers who lost service could have switched providers at the first hint of trouble. For most, that option was not available.

In the short term, the federal government cannot force the restoration of interrupted service. Policymakers cannot order @Home to continue to operate or make cable companies who use @Home services absorb the cost of keeping service running.

But government is part of the ultimate solution. Congress has to quickly revisit the out- dated 1996 Telecom Act and consider pending legislation such as that introduced by Reps. Billy Tauzin and John Dingell, which would reduce burdensome and counterproductive regulations that are preventing greater competition and choice in the broadband market.

The cable companies, who have not been handcuffed by counterproductive regulation of their Internet services, have moved rapidly into broadband. Free of the regulatory roadblocks of the 1996 Act, other companies will be able to move just as fast, creating competition for the cable providers and new choices for consumers.

With more than one service provider available, consumers will then be able to avoid waking up to silent modems should another provider duplicate @Home's collapse.

Consumer choice works for the rest of America's economy; it should be the goal in broadband as well.


JORDAN CLARK

President

United Homeowners Association

Washington

A vegetarian diet can help prevent holiday weight gain

As cardiologist Dr. Thomas Goldbaum correctly noted in your story "Weigh holiday options," winter months are an important time to prevent weight gain (Metropolitan, Nov. 27). Toward that end, a few more tips may prove helpful, not just during the holidays, but all year long.

Last April, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published a federal study comparing vegetarian, high-protein, and Food Guide Pyramid-based diets. The study found that, on average, vegetarians had significantly lower body mass indexes (a measure of weight) and consumed fewer calories, yet ate larger volumes of food. In other words, vegetarian fare can fill you up without filling you out. One useful tactic is having most servings you eat contain at least 2 grams of fiber. Satisfying high-fiber food include whole-wheat breads, oatmeal, brown rice, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

Consider these other easy suggestions:

• Lower your fat intake by altering your menu. One fat gram packs 9 calories, whereas a gram of protein or carbohydrate has only 4. You can dramatically progress toward maintaining a healthy, stable weight by cutting out animal fats found in meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products and added oils.

• Choose a healthy eating style built from low-fat nutrient-rich plant foods. Instead of ice cream, potato chips, or pizza, try healthy alternatives. Savor sorbet or make a frozen fruit-and-soymilk smoothie. Try spiced baked-potato wedges. Prepare a cheese-free pizza loaded with sweet roasted vegetables.

• Set written goals for weight, eating habits and exercising. Review your goals daily or weekly to ascertain if you remain on track. Enlist a partner if helpful. Give yourself small weekly rewards for achieved goals, and troubleshoot to devise successful strategies for when you fall short.

• Plan ahead for parties or similar events. Eat something before you go or take a delicious, healthy dish to share. Focus on interacting with your friends and family, deemphasizing the centrality of food. If you are the host, serve healthy vegetarian choices, such as vegetable and fruit trays, and omit the heavy dips, cheeses and pastries.

To most effectively achieve a long-term stable weight, doctors and dietitians increasingly recommend the vegetarian approach. Why not take the plunge today and start benefiting from a diet free of animal products in time for 2002?


AMY JOY LANOU

Nutrition director

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Washington

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