by Inlander Readers & r & Cable Is Sooo 1991 & r & It is sad but not surprising that cable TV companies across the country are marshaling all their political resources and lobbying might to halt the advance of cutting-edge technology that would offer consumers an alternative way of receiving video and Internet service in their homes. IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is the next generation of technology that can provide video and Internet service to consumers through upgraded fiber optic telephone lines. Verizon, SBC and other telephone companies -- big and small -- are now preparing to spend billions to make these necessary upgrades and improvements to their lines in an effort to bring their IPTV services to local residents in the coming months.

Verizon's "FiOS TV" service will offer its customers more channels, more choices and highly advanced digital TV capabilities through their upgraded lines. SBC is working to roll out their "Lightspeed" project which would enable millions of residential customers to access integrated digital TV, super-speed broadband and voice services via a new fiber-rich network.

If this technology is allowed to progress, tens of millions of residents in communities across the country could benefit from the first phase rollout of these new high-speed, ultra high-tech video services.

Unfortunately, rather than welcoming more competition, cable companies have decided to throw up every roadblock imaginable to prevent the introduction of Internet Protocol Television service. They're trying to use political clout to stymie the rollout of IPTV.

If state and federal regulators can resist the siren song of cable companies, they will help facilitate a new, high-quality video delivery package.

The cable companies have enjoyed a long and profitable ride for the past decade, but new technology is arriving and times are changing. Our local and national communication policymakers need to do what's right for consumers and not inhibit greater consumer choice.

John Berthoud & r & President, National Taxpayer's Union & r & Alexandria, Va.

Atkins Schmatkins & r & Old Abe was right after all: "You can't fool all the people all the time." And the company founded by diet guru Robert Atkins, after subverting America's best nutritional consensus, wound up in bankruptcy court.

The Atkins high-protein diet craze peaked in early 2004, when more than 9 percent of U.S. adults subscribed to such a diet, according to market research firm NPD Group. That figure declined gradually to 2.2 percent last month after a consumer advocacy group released a medical examiner's report showing that Atkins himself was overweight and suffered from heart disease.

Over the past three decades, a dozen expert panels reviewing thousands of diet and health studies concluded that Americans should replace meat and dairy products in their diet with vegetables, fresh fruits and whole grains. None reached the opposite conclusion.

As consumers, we need to be constantly vigilant for entrepreneurs who exploit our obsession with physical appearance to promote their profit-driven agendas. The price we pay, beyond an inflated food bill, is life-long chronic afflictions and a curtailed life span. Let's hope that this lesson does not come too late for victims of the Atkins diet.

Samuel Davidson & r & Spokane Valley, Wash.

The Plame Game & r & Everybody knows who Valerie Plame is. Do you remember Richard Welch? On Dec. 23, 1975, in Athens, Greece, three men shot him to death in front of his wife. His CIA identity had become known.

In 1999, former Pres. George H.W. Bush said, "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are in my view, the most insidious of traitors."

Exposing a CIA agent is wrong. Karl Rove and Scooter Libby violated their security clearance by mentioning Wilson's wife.

On July 11, 2005, at Quantico, President Bush praised soldiers and employees of the FBI, DEA and CIA for fighting terrorism, saying, "Your work is difficult. It is dangerous. I want you to know how much your country appreciates you, and so do I."

If President Bush meant it, he'll fire Rove and Libby. It's irrelevant whether they're convicted of a crime. They endangered those fighting terrorism, simply for revenge against a critic. Call the White House at (202) 456-1414 and demand that the President fire Rove and Libby. All those folks with "Support the Troops" ribbons on their vehicles should certainly be making that call.

Steve Gigliotti & r & Davenport, Wash.

Nader Nadir & r & It would be nice to hear a third party make some noise right about now. Democrats are not coming up with any of their own proposals, which is hard when you don't control a thing. Republicans dominate the committees, and advancing legislation has become extremely partisan. Democrats are also pushing the obstructionist stance to its limits and are jeopardizing how they are viewed by the newly politically aware. Blocking bills simply to make the lives of Bush, Delay, Frist and others more difficult is not the best strategy.

However, the Republicans are not doing much better. More corporate welfare with the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) (which several Democrats voted for), the politicization of PBS, tolerance of Karl Rove's at least unethical and possible illegal behavior, interference in the Schiavo case, unheard-of tax cuts during a war and so on. Whatever happened to states' rights, strict moral adherence, small government and fiscal responsibility?

While sensationalist media outlets bombard us with the latest kidnapping, murder, celebrity trial, "reality" shows and other garbage, the Democrats and Republicans strive to divide us into easily discernible constituencies, so they know where to concentrate their efforts for reelection. Once you're elected, it's nearly impossible to be unseated because of regular gerrymandering and enormous access to campaign money.

Both parties would have us believe we are divided by differing ideas, but in reality it is money that creates the much more pronounced schism of social class. All of this and more makes a third party look ever so inviting right now.

Joe Aune & r & Spokane, Wash.

West's Side Stories? & r & Say what you want about Mayor West, but he must not be doing that bad. After all, he practically has his own weekly publication. You all should consider changing the name from the Inlander to the Westerner, or Tales of the West.

Don McDowell & r & Cheney, Wash.

Spring Market at the Pavilion @ Riverfront Park

Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m. Continues through May 12
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