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First-order polarization-mode dispersion (PMD) compensation by means of a polarization controller and a differential delay line is not sufficient to guarantee error-free transmission for 40-Gb/s channels when higher order effects severely increase signal distortion. Higher order mitigation is possible by cascading more than one first-order block. However, only two-stage or three-stage devices remain simple enough to be actually controlled. The performance of such higher order PMD compensators is evaluated by means of numerical simulations. Two different feedback signals have been used, demonstrating that first-order and higher order PMD distortion of nonreturn-to-zero (NRZ) pulses at 40 Gb/s can be strongly mitigated for instantaneous values of the differential group delay (DGD) up to the bit slot, when the compensator is properly controlled.