Broader Wiretap Rule Draws Resistance
The FCC’s recent decision to widen the scope of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) has drawn opposition from some companies and universities, who say the cost of complying with the new rules will be too high.
The FCC wants to expand CALEA–which requires companies to make it easier for the government to listen to phone calls carried on their lines–to include Internet phones and broadband services as well. Federal law-enforcement officials are concerned about terrorists switching to the new systems to bypass traditional phone networks that have wiretapping-friendly technology.
In August, the FCC agreed and said companies that provide Internet calling that looks and feels like traditional phone service must comply with CALEA in 18 months. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said that while he believed “new technologies and services should operate free of economic regulation, I also believe that law-enforcement agencies must have the ability to conduct lawful electronic surveillance over these new technologies.”
Meanwhile, the Justice Department is urging the FCC to go even further, saying the law should cover any Internet phone service, including companies such as Skype, which offers computer-to-computer and computer-to-phone Internet calling.
Internet companies, universities, libraries, and other providers were given until spring 2007 to reconfigure their networks to comply with the rule, although the FCC did not give them any idea about what they would have to do to comply.
Since the FCC’s decision, dozens of universities, libraries, and Internet companies have filed objections to the rules, asking for more time before the rules take effect, complaining about the potential cost and complexity of compliance and urging the FCC to adopt educational exemptions.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Wall Street Journal (12/29/05) P. A4; Dreazen, Yochi J.; Schatz, Amy; Block, Robert .