NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 67 February 21, 2001
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.

IN THIS ISSUE:

Alternate Routes On the Information Highway
Email Wiretap Alert
Voting Technology
About NetAction Notes

Alternate Routes On the Information Highway

Connecting rural communities to the "Information Highway" is widely regarded as one of the necessary steps to bridging the digital divide, but contrary to the prevailing view it doesn't necessarily require the cooperation of the local phone company. There are some promising alternative technologies available that NetAction identifies in a new report.

"Will Technology Trickle Down to Rural America?" is an overview of the terrestrial and satellite wireless networks that can be used to bring affordable Internet and broadband service to rural areas of the U.S. and other nations.

The availability of affordable alternatives is good news for rural Internet users. Rural communities are less likely to be served by competing local Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and the massive sell-off of rural local exchanges by regional Bell monopolies has made matters worse.

The paper was written by NetAction intern Kalyani Manohar, a graduate student studying International Telecommunication at Michigan State. The complete paper is available at: http://www.netaction.org/alt-tech/.

Broadband Internet service is less available in rural areas largely because of the high infrastructure costs of wired networks. The alternatives examined in the paper include spread spectrum technology, multi-point, multi-channel distribution systems, geosynchronous earth orbit satellites, and low earth orbit satellites. The paper describes some of the pilot projects and their costs, and includes an appendix with information on networks based on cable and digital set top box technology.


Email Wiretap Alert

Some of the more popular email software browsers leave users vulnerable to a potential privacy breech described as "email wiretapping" by the Privacy Foundation, which recently issued a warning about the problem.

Email browsers that are vulnerable to the problem include Outlook 2000, Outlook Express 5, and Netscape Messenger 6. Detailed information about the problem is on the web at: http://www.privacyfoundation.org/advisories/advemailwiretap.html#users.

The problem is not a software "bug" or a virus; it's a hidden JavaScript code that executes when a forwarded email message is read. The code sends a copy of the forwarded message, including any added comments or attachments, to the original sender's Web server. The sender can retrieve and read the returned copies of the forwarded messages.

According to the Privacy Foundation, the hidden code can be used to monitor confidential email messages that are shared and discussed within a business or organization. Every time the message is forwarded, a copy is returned to the original sender's Web server, along with any comments or attachments that have been added.

The problem can be partially avoided by disabling the JavaScript feature in HTML email messages. Instructions on how to do this are on the Privacy Foundation web site. Of course, you can avoid the problem entirely by using one of the email browsers that isn't affected. Unaffected email browsers include Eudora, America Online's email software Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail.


Voting Technology

The voting irregularities in Florida that ultimately enabled George W. Bush to claim that state's electoral college votes - and thus, the presidency–have been the subject of many heated discussions ever since election day. For those who believe the solution is greater use of technology in the election process, I recommend the following articles:


About NetAction Notes

NetAction Notes is a free electronic newsletter, published by NetAction. NetAction is a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting use of the Internet for grassroots citizen action, and to educating the public, policy makers, and the media about technology policy issues.

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