Thursday, 5 August 2004
FCC subjects VoIP to CALEA
The FCC acted this week on Uncle Fed's request that it subject VoIP providers to CALEA, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. Last month, the FBI asked the Commission to exercise its authority to extend the group of technologies to which the act applies to include VoIP — in other words, to expand the reach of cheap and easy "wiretapping" for Uncle Fed and other law enforcement agencies. (Well, not literally "wiretapping," as I explained in detail a few months ago: "Wiretapping & VoIP.")
Yesterday, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Declaratory Ruling [pdf] in which it concluded that broadband providers whose facilities can be used for VoIP should be subject to the surveillance rules that govern traditional phone service providers:
[T]he Commission tentatively concludes that CALEA applies to facilities-based providers of any type of broadband Internet access service — including wireline, cable modem, satellite, wireless, and powerline — and to managed or mediated Voice over Internet Protocol ("VoIP") services. These tentative conclusions are based on a Commission proposal that these services fall under CALEA as "a replacement for a substantial portion of the local telephone exchange service."
Now, it wants public comment on implementation:
The Commission seeks comment on telecommunications carriers' obligations under section 103 of CALEA and compliance solutions as they relate to broadband Internet access and VoIP. In particular, the Commission seeks comment on the feasibility of carriers relying on a trusted third party to manage their CALEA obligations and whether standards for packet-mode technologies are deficient and thus preclude carriers from relying on them as safe harbors for complying with CALEA.
The kicker? Broadband providers are expected to bear the full cost of this law government program:
With regard to costs, the Commission tentatively concludes that carriers are responsible for CALEA development and implementation costs for post-January 1, 1995 equipment and facilities; seeks comment on cost recovery issues for wireline, wireless and other carriers; and refers to the Federal-State Separations Joint Board cost recovery issues for carriers subject to Title II of the Communications Act.
The New York Times has coverage: "F.C.C. Supports Surveillance Rules on Internet Calls". See also Declan's column from last week, for background info: "FBI targets Net phoning."