FCC reaffirms deadline for wiretapping compliance

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week adoptedan order that reaffirms the May 14, 2007, deadline forfacilities-based broadband Internet access and interconnected VOIPproviders to comply with the 1994 Communications Assistance for LawEnforcement Act (CALEA) for electronic surveillance.

The deadline was first established under the FCC’s First Report andOrder, dated Sept. 23, 2005. This week’s order concludes that thisdeadline gives providers of these services sufficient time todevelop compliance solutions, and notes that standards developmentsfor these services are already underway.

Second, the order clarifies that this May 14, 2007 compliance datewill apply to all facilities-based broadband Internet access andinterconnected VOIP providers.

“Applying the same compliance date to all providers will eliminateany possible confusion about the applicability of the deadline,avoid any skewing effect on competition, and prevent migration ofcriminal activity onto networks with delayed compliance dates,” thecommission states.

CALEA has come under fire from higher educational institutions thatsay compliance will cost them billions of dollars, jeopardizeresearch and open their networks to further hacker attacks. Byproviding facilities to access the Internet, universities andlibraries fear they fall under the umbrella of the CALEA complianceorder.

This week’s order also permits telecommunications carriers theoption of using “trusted third parties” to assist in meeting theirCALEA obligations, and provides law enforcement agencies theelectronic surveillance information they require in an acceptableformat. It also concludes that carriers are responsible for CALEAdevelopment and implementation costs for post-Jan. 1, 1995,equipment and facilities, and declines to adopt a nationalsurcharge to recover CALEA costs.

“The order finds that it would not serve the public interest toimplement a national surcharge because such a mechanism wouldincrease the administrative burden placed upon the carriers andprovide little incentive for them to minimize their costs,” the FCCstates.

The order also requires all carriers providing facilities-basedbroadband Internet access and interconnected VOIP service to submitinterim reports to the commission to ensure that they will beCALEA-compliant by May 14, 2007.

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