FCC Upholds VoIP CALEA-Compliance Deadline

The FCC on Wednesday stuck with a May 14, 2007 deadline requiring VoIP providers to comply with 1994s Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

The agency last August had said providers must meet CALEA obligations, but a number of carriers asked the FCC to reconsider the deadline. The FCC on Wednesday refused to change the date. It also instructed any VoIP providers that previously were told to become CALEA-compliant now must do so within 90 days of the orders effective date.

I remain committed to ensuring that these providers take all necessary actions to incorporate surveillance capabilities into their networks in a timely fashion, said FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin. Further, we will continue to work to address and overcome any challenges that stand in the way of effective lawful electronic surveillance.

CALEA is the law that allows police and other agencies to wiretap carriers networks. With the growth of the Internet, law enforcement officials had feared criminals could use e-mail and VoIP to circumvent traditional communications methods, and in 2004, asked the FCC to allow them to keep tabs on IP networks.

On Wednesday, the FCC upheld its original date. It also refused to allow carriers to impose surcharges so they can recover CALEA costs. Providers must pay for the implementation themselves and not pass the burden on to subscribers, the FCC said. The agency did authorize providers to use third parties, such as the ones that have been helping them meet E911 requirements, to become CALEA-compliant.

The order did cause some concern for Democratic commissioner Michael J. Copps, who sided with universities and libraries that have said they fear the CALEA obligations could extend to their private networks.

All those agencies and offices of government involved in CALEA implementation should work together to provide clarity here and to avoid confusion and potentially significant expenses for these institutions, Copps said.

The FCC was scheduled for oral arguments on Friday, May 5, responding to a complaint filed against the agency by the American Council on Education. That group says the FCC and Department of Justice are overstepping their bounds with the CALEA order, saying they have no proof that any one VoIP provider has not complied with lawful surveillance requests.



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