Wireless firms’ business practices spur innovation

For example, Mr. Berry’s claim that “four national wireless monopolies” force rural customers into some sort of “digital apartheid” is simply ridiculous.

Four firms that aggressively compete to provide the overwhelming majority of Americans with a multitude of pricing plans and choices in mobile phones is the very antithesis of “monopoly.” Indeed, by every standard measure of market concentration, the U.S. market is among the most competitive in the world.

More importantly, whether Mr. Berry likes it or not, exclusive handset arrangements in a competitive market enhance consumer welfare. Such contracts drive innovation as these arrangements provide the incentive to firms to provide the risk capital, marketing budgets and distribution channels necessary to design, manufacture and distribute new mobile devices. This virtuous cycle of innovation and investment provides consumers with the newest mobile innovations at affordable prices. Indeed, the exclusive nature of the iPhone relationship with AT&T virtually compelled other manufacturers and networks to develop their own competing phones such as the BlackBerry Storm and Palm Pre. As a result consumers can choose from a wider range of choices than if the iPhone had been made available to every carrier.

Banning exclusive contracts would reduce incentive to innovate the next, best smart phone, but the price of phones will rise and consumers will likely have fewer innovative new phones to choose from. The fact is, competition works best when companies can differentiate themselves by developing better products. When every competitor carries the same product line, consumers end up with fewer choices.

Lawrence J. Spiwak, Washington

The writer is president of the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, a group largely devoted to telecom industry concerns.

Lockout of GOP should be litigated

(Regarding article, “Democrats lock Republicans out of committee room,” Oct. 22, and related coverage.) Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) locked Republicans out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee room to keep them from meeting when Democrats aren’t present. This story should have legs.

It’s one thing for Democrats to walk out on meetings when they disagree with the minority. And I believe members of political parties have the right to meet in private and even to use Capitol meeting rooms for their own meetings. And there can be valid security reasons for closed-door meetings. But if they really need to lock Republicans out of their meetings, they should meet at some private, off-site location.

Why?  Because it is wrong for a party to assert a proprietary interest on a public facility like a meeting room in the Capitol. Rep. Towns and the Democrats don’t own that room.  Hence they should not be able to change the locks to keep their opponents out because they disagree with them. This should be further publicized and even litigated.

From Tom Klein, McKinney, Texas