Putting a Face on Net Neutrality; Black Hat News

Opinion: eWEEK takes a close look at how net neutrality affects individuals; the Black Hat hacker gathering gets revealing.

Until now, the net neutrality debate has delivered more entertainment value than substantive discussion over who should pay (or pay extra) for Internet usage, and how much. Jon Stewart on the "The Daily Show" has gotten a lot of mileage out of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens "series of tubes" Senate floor speech. Someone has even created a Series of Tubes dance remix. Part of the reason the net neutrality debate hasnt gotten much traction is because, like Stevens, we all have our own definition of what net neutrality is and how it will affect us.

To that end, eWEEK Senior Writer Wayne Rash talked with four people who each have a different spin on net neutrality and what it means to them. The little guy, like doctors in rural Alaska or teachers in inner-city Washington, are worried that any moves toward tariffs on high-bandwidth traffic by the telcos will cut them—and their patients and students—off from the world.

Small Web-based companies such as Guba that serve video downloads and the like are concerned that consumers will end up with less choice and more cost. Meanwhile, what multinationals such as Siemens fear isnt access or cost, but excess regulation that could revert us back to the days of circuit-switched telephones.

With deep-pocketed opponents of any tariff system such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo leading the charge, its likely we have not seen the end of the net neutrality debate, despite a defeat in the House of Representatives in June. The implications for growth and innovation are too hard to ignore.

The Black Hat Briefings used to be home to the radical fringe of the hacker world and a place where suits from the National Security Agency would lurk in hopes of recruiting potential cyber-spies. No longer, as the conference now has a definite corporate feel, with a new owner and with Microsoft and Vista getting center stage.

Still, as senior writers Ryan Naraine and Matt Hines report, serious security research is still on display. As one example, two hackers demonstrated that a hole in popular Wi-Fi drivers can allow a malicious hacker to take over a PC. And guess what—its not unique to Windows machines, either, as they showed how by hacking into an Apple MacBook. Wont that take the sugar out of your latte at Starbucks?

Contact eWEEK Editor Scot Petersen at scot_petersen@ziffdavis.com.


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Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...