Well, as it is, a significant amount of research is funded with taxpayer dollars. Publishers than take that research, in some cases charging the researcher money to publish their work, and then provide access to that research via very costly subscription fees. It would seem to be a system where the middle man is making out really well and the end users not so well.
Mostly I think this is just an example of a publishing medium which hasn't yet come to terms with the world we now live in. Most other mediums (e.g music, books, movies, newspaper) have modified and are still modifying their content delivery to better suit our internet world. I spend a fair bit of time looking at scholarly work and always laugh when I see a single 10-page article going for $30 dollars (or even more). It's ludicrous.
They really need to probably lower prices overall, and find a way to allow access to independent researchers as well as less financially capable institutions (especially in other parts of the world).
JSTOR has just recently implemented a program called Register and Read. With a registration, it allows a user free read-only access to many of their journals. I think it has a limit of how many you can read per a time period, but still it is at least an example of an attempt to expand access. They also have a relatively new Alumni Access Program but it only includes about 40 institutions so far.