Towns tuned in to the 'Digital Age' Concerning " 'Digital Age' skirts rural America" (Dec. 31): In Alberta, Canada, we have proceeded more slowly with telecommunications deregulation than in the United States. Our telephone network, Telus, has modernized the phone infrastructure in a way that has protected the public good and access to the Internet and other forms of high-speed data access and transmission. I can travel anywhere in Alberta with my laptop computer and access my e-mail with a local phone call - even in the remote hinterland of northern Alberta. However, we are being driven by economic forces to deregulate, and most feel the quality of service will suffer.

Barry W. Adams Lethbridge, Alberta

Your article prompted me to write about my experience in Austin, Texas. Taking data and information and turning it into knowledge is one of the most critical challenges facing communities today. In a move to keep Austin's communications policy proactive, Austin County and the State of Texas recently joined forces to ensure that all citizens have access to the National Information Infrastructure (NII) - a fiber optic cable network linking virtually every local and state government office in Austin.

The $15 million Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network will be completed by the end of 1999 and will provide telephone, data, and video services for local schools, colleges, and state offices. The 285 miles of cable connecting more than 300 public facilities will be the largest cooperative telecommunications system in the nation. More importantly, Austin students will use the network for everything from accessing library materials to communication with pals around the world.

Jimmy Castro Austin, Texas

Clinton's offenses not petty

Reading the opinion article "The most serious casualty: comity on Capitol Hill" (Dec. 21): I don't get the value of a columnist like Pat Holt who pretty much swallows hook, line, and sinker the Democratic line and then regurgitates it as informed opinion. When I watched bits and pieces of the House debate, it was the Democrats who did the shouting and blustering and threatening and, yes, spinning. They sought to cast the hearing and resulting vote as a debate over sexual morality, and they largely avoided the lying-under-oath issue. Or they excused it as lying about sex to protect the family, which somehow makes it OK. If this were a first offense by President Clinton in adultery that argument might hold some water. But now it's laughable. To call this a petty issue - as Mr. Holt did - is to ignore the greater argument that this shows that the man in question is unworthy and untrustworthy to be president.

Don Hinkle Green Village, N.J.

What brown needles?

Regarding "A survival guide for living Christmas trees" (Dec. 9): Here's another tree idea that saves money. Our tree this year was fresh cut - three years ago! Last year it was a super tree. And the year before it was new and green. That year our tree decorators put on so much tinsel, rope, floss, and dross that it was difficult to ascertain if the underlying structure was a fir or apple tree. That spring the tree was saved for another project which still had not been completed as Christmas approached again.

And after pricing a few fresh trees, I thought, "What difference does it make - no one can see the tree anyway." So I put up the year-old tree minus half its needles. Two days later the decorators did their job and it could not be told that mostly underneath was a tree with a few dry brown needles. Last summer I sprayed the tree with green paint. It looks fine with a little less tinsel.

Lawrence F. Mahoney Green River, Wyo.

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