May 3, 2006 10:53 AM PDT

FCC approves Net-wiretapping taxes

WASHINGTON--Broadband providers and Internet phone companies will have to pick up the tab for the cost of building in mandatory wiretap access for police surveillance, federal regulators ruled Wednesday.

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to levy what likely will amount to wiretapping taxes on companies, municipalities and universities, saying it would create an incentive for them to keep costs down and that it was necessary to fight the war on terror. Universities have estimated their cost to be about $7 billion.


"The first obligation is...the safety of the people," said FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat. "This commission supports efforts to protect the public safety and homeland security of the United States and its people."

Federal police agencies have spent years lobbying for mandatory backdoors for easy surveillance, saying "criminals, terrorists and spies" could cloak their Internet communications with impunity unless centralized wiretapping hubs become mandatory. Last year, the FCC set a deadline of May 14, 2007, for compliance. But universities, libraries and some technology companies have filed suit against the agency, and arguments before a federal court are scheduled for Friday.

"We're going to have a lot of fights over cost reimbursement," Al Gidari, a partner at the law firm of Perkins Coie, who is co-counsel in the lawsuit, said in an interview after the vote. "It continues the lunacy of their prior order and confirms they've learned nothing from what's been filed" in the lawsuit, he said.

The original 1994 law, called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, authorized $500 million to pay telecommunications carriers for the cost of upgrading their networks to facilitate wiretapping. Some broadband and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers had hoped that they'd be reimbursed as well.

Jonathan Askin, general counsel of, likened Wednesday's vote to earlier FCC rules extending 911 regulations to VoIP. "It essentially imposed a mandate on the industry without giving the industry the necessary support to abide by the rules--and the same thing seems to be happening here," Askin said.

Even without the CALEA regulations, police have the legal authority to conduct Internet wiretaps--that's precisely what the FBI's Carnivore system was designed to do. Still, the FBI has argued, the need for "standardized broadband intercept capabilities is especially urgent in light of today's heightened threats to homeland security and the ongoing tendency of criminals to use the most clandestine modes of communication."

The American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 colleges and universities, estimates that the costs of CALEA compliance could total roughly $7 billion for the entire higher-education community, or a tuition hike of $450 for every student in the nation. Documents filed in the lawsuit challenging the FCC's rules put the cost at hundreds of dollars per student.

But during Wednesday's vote, commissioners dismissed those concerns as unfounded. "I am not persuaded merely by largely speculative allegations that the financial burden on the higher-education community could total billions of dollars," said FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, a Republican.

The FCC's initial ruling last fall had left open the question of whether broadband and VoIP providers would be reimbursed for rewiring their networks and upgrading equipment to comply with CALEA.

See more CNET content tagged:
CALEA, FCC Commissioner, university, broadband provider, homeland security


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So, the ISPs are going to give the government money so they can start watching what Im doing? Am I missing something here or are they trying to mess with the privacy of US citizens and make the big companies pay for it?
Posted by Amazingant (146 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes...You're missing something
You're missing that the ISPs are going to pass that cost on to the customers. So in essence, you will be paying yet more money out of pocket to support the government's insatiable appetite to spy on it's citizens. :-)
Posted by (63 comments )
Link Flag
What a good idea...
Lets open HUGE privacy holes in broadband access, so idiot FBI agents can wiretap on us without issue. Who cares that everyday hackers will take advantage of this more than the government.

And, of course, end users are fee to pick up the tab as well.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
even better! they'll make the big companies pay for it, and my cable bill goes up! i didn't even think about that... wonder how long it'll be...
Posted by Amazingant (146 comments )
Link Flag
The Tab
Somehow my paycheck always finds it's way down some government-provided drain...
Posted by phasam (8 comments )
Link Flag
Remember J. Edgar
Our government is doing everything they can to make sure our rights as citizens do not extend to the internet. They take one right, one freedom at a time, little by little, until it's all gone.

Welcome to the new world.
Posted by Pete Bardo (687 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So much for the Internet Privacy Act.
It will take the hacker community about twenty minutes to figure
out how to use this gaping hole in internet security.

Thanks, once again, to legislators who are completely clueless
as to how technology functions and wouldn't know the 7-step
model from a 12-step program, our rights as citizens to be
protected from intrusion into our private lives has, once again,
been removed.

Who says reincarnation isn't a fact? Joe McCarthy lives on in the

Lee Darrow, C.H.
Chicago, IL
Posted by mstrhypno (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Copps out!
"The first obligation is...the safety of the people,". That is the mindset of most politicians post 9/11. The problem is with safety first liberty is last. Democracy is risky business and always will be. The spineless wonders we have elected prove time again their eagerness to trade freedom for the illusion of security. At least these unelected FCC officials are consistent; producing one profoundly misguided ruling after another. Do these bozos really believe wiretapping a voip will catch any terrorists? Clearly most have a higher level of sophistication than openly chatting about operations on a phone or in an unencrypted email. What these government actions amount to in reality is the systematic establishment of a big brother data mining and monitoring apparatus. It seems rather redundant as the NSA has it already in place! I guess those guys don't share with the FBI and police hence the need for a duplicate system.
Posted by zanzzz (138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your Government Your friend
"If all Americans want is security, they can go to prison, they will have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over thier heads" - Dwight D. Eisenhower 12-8-49. This is so redicoulous. Ever since 9/11 more and more of our freedoms have been taken away. All in the name of "terroism". They can use this excuse to take all our rights, and people will still back them. Its sad really. Maybe we should just call the FBI on three way, it would make it easier for them. "Those who trade their freedoms for security deserve and will reserve niether." Benjamen Franklin.
Posted by lazarus_vendetta (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"they hate us because of our freedoms" ...
Remember Pres. Bush giving a speech telling us why the terrorists hate us?

He said "terrorists hate us because of our freedoms."

So.. it's entirely logical that once our freedoms are eliminated we'll no longer be hated. Right?
Posted by FTCnet (2 comments )
Link Flag
Mantra Falls Flat
"More and more of our freedoms have been taken away ... they can use (9/11) to take away more of our rights..."

Which rights have disappeared? We don't have a constitutional right to low gas prices, nor have we ever had the freedom to speak freely with those who are at war with the U.S. Clearly, there has been no curb on the right to dissent, freedom of the press, or any other of our Constitutionally-protected rights. You and Franklin are right - those would give up God-given rights for freedom deserve neither, but that doesn't apply. Not yet, anyway. People like you desperately want rights to disappear, I know, so that you can feel good about yourselves and your anti-productive rhetoric. I hope that day doesn't come.
Posted by GratefulWriter (1 comment )
Link Flag
Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. - Ben Franklin
Posted by Timmmay (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
limiting choose
Argggg! it would appear that my only two political chooses are now between fascists or socialists. One wishes to deprive me of financial freedom; the other my personal freedom.
Posted by p.shearer (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
1st obligation is the Constitution
Sure seems like the first obligation should be to the constitution.
Reportedly they already have the ability to enable wiretapping...
If US citizens continue to abrogate their rights, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Write and/or call your representatives and let them know this is unacceptable.
Posted by dboy69 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sadly, we have totally forgotten the reason for the "Boston Tea Party"!

And now , we have to pay an extra impost to allow big brother to bug us all in daily life, truly amazing!, what's next, burn the constitution?

Oh well, there is always the ballot box?, for even a simple ficus tree can do a far better job, then the current house majority!(it can't fall asleep, and is too wooden, to take bribes or free lunches, from the corporate sector!)

Taxes, arbitrarily imposed without representation, are truly evil!!!!!!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Protect me from my government
"The first obligation is...the safety of the people," said FCC Commissioner Michael Copp. I'm more concerned about our own government than I am about terrorists. Almost daily I read an article like this about how taking our rights away is because they care for our safety. I'll take my chances thank you
Posted by jacksons98 (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OUR government!
What are the first words in the declaration of independance?

Oh that's right...>WE THE PEOPLE!

Since when did this jackass-run 'government' obtain total authority and power over WE THE PEOPLE, and create a nation of SLAVES?

Buy more guns, take a stand!

Fight fire with fire!

Vote OUT those people bent on creating a dictatorship, and prevent this current MORON from usurping more power than he has a constitutional right to!

Wasn't his OATH OF OFFICE to DEFEND AND PROTECT the CONSTITUITION to the BEST of HIS ability when he was sworn in?



Posted by AECRADIO (21 comments )
Link Flag
THE FCC Doesn't Have the Authority
to do this. They are grossly overstepping their purview. This moronic Agency keeps grabbing for more power and more control. They definitely have no rights to setup backdoors in private data networks.
Posted by PzkwVIb (462 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The F.C.C and taxes....????????
WHEN did the F.C.C become a LEGISLATIVE branch with authority to introduce 'new' taxes anyhow?

Bush is allowing this chicken s***t government to do whatever it pleases and with NO accountability to the people anymore.

Time to charge and sentence Bush for: Treason and high crimes, and shove his ass in for LIFE for his despotic methods, THEN have him tried INTERNATIONALLY for WAR CRIMES AND TORTURE!

Posted by AECRADIO (21 comments )
Link Flag
I can do that too.
Everyone should jump in the air repeatedly, whilst at the same time flapping your arms like a bird at least three times a day.

If you don't the governments ability to fight terrorism will be severely restricted.

It's a well known fact that terrorists are fat (actually one of the terrorists on a cliche'd Chuck Norris movie was fat, and as such provides a clear link between the loss of 50s style exercise programs and 9/11) so if obese America drops a few lbs we will be able to implicate all remaining fat people as terrorists.

Not working for you?

Well then unfortunately, and although we recognise every American's right to religious freedom, this should not be mistaken as an excuse to for everyone to forget to carry a Bible on their persons at all times.

It is a well known fact that if a member of Al Quaeda was to even touch an official US Jesus Manual he would burst into flames.

Remember that while you have the right to religious freedom, this should not excuse your patriotic duty to be a Christian. In our revisionist version of the Constitution, not only does the President have the right to overall all levels of Government, but religious freedom is simply a reference to each American's duty to forsake Godless paganism.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Red Alert - communist, bird flu carrying, terrorists will increase taxes
The White House has finally admitted that there is something worse to fear than terrorists.

Apparently they have identified a clear link between Bird Flu and Al Quaeda, and are holding meetings at the highest level to decide how to use the invasion of Iraq to explain why tax cuts and placing wire taps on all Americans phone lines will prevent the next pandemic.

Clearly the only way to combat this threat is the unrestricted ability of the NSA to record each and every American's phone sex conversations, not too mention the suspicious increase in the use of the internet to purchase unChristian reading material or worse, booking a vacation in Al Quaeda's closest Ally - France.

The most important thing to remember is that the desire for privacy is clearly a subversive tendancy, and any such people the express such a desire should clearly be watched at all times.

Remember "Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear".

Next on the President's agenda, auto-voting. To circumvent immigrant voter fraud, all valid citizens should sign up for auto-votes immediately.

You will be allocated your Republican Voter Registration Identity Number, and your local Republican Senator will cast your vote for you.

This will prevent not only voter error, which nearly proved catestrophic in the 2000 election, and without timely intervention of the Supreme Court could have resulted in a non-Republican party approved president being elected.

Whilst we wouldn't want you to stop being in fear of terrorism, at least we can comfort you with the knowledge that terrorists will not hijack your vote.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
More people should use encryption
At first it might seem a little paranoid, but
why not just use it? If everyone used it then it
would be commonplace. Perhaps PGP should be
included by default in more software? I know
people who refuse to pay their bills from their
own bank's website out of fear that hackers
might SSL packets. Ironicly those same people
think nothing of handing their credit cards to a
waitress or bartender.

It is not very difficult for even the average
computer user to install and run encryption
software that makes ISP or government snooping
practically impossible. This can easily be done
with email as the technology is very mature, but
unfortunately very few people even bother using
it. Encryption also exists for VOIP and will
probably improve but most likely people will not
use it preferring to complain how "the man" is
able to snoop in on their business.
Posted by Mallardd (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Use of encryption
I agree with you Mallardd that we should all use encryption. But just watch there will be a day when the government outlaws encryption and anyone caught using it will be subject to fines or imprisonment.
Posted by Dave_Brown (46 comments )
Link Flag
I will not censure myself
I would have to disagree with you. While, I would encourage people to utilize encryption if possible, I don't believe it should be necessary. In theory, the government answers to us, not the other way around. As such, I should not be required to inconvenience myself or others in order to prevent the government from observing my personal thoughts and speech. Honestly, we revolted against Britain for less than the atrocities being foisted upon us by our own government. In case you forgot, the government is supposed to be "of the people, by the people, FOR the people."
Posted by camel828 (8 comments )
Link Flag
Constitution worthless says Bush
Mr. President, one aide in the meeting said. There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.

Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, Bush screamed back. Its just a ********* piece of paper!

Ive talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution a ********* piece of paper. Thompson adds. (Doug Thompson - Capitol Hill Blue)
Posted by FTCnet (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Only an IDIOT...

...Would accept being able to spy-on, track, and record everything that every single American-citizen does, in the name of "...catching terrorists, and [other] criminals".

...And, only a TRAITOR would seriously propose it.

Once, the U.S. government decided that it no longer had to obey "The U.S. Constitution", the Law, ...or "...the will of the people..." it gave up every right to call itself a legitimate-government.

Let me put this more bluntly...

Those currently in control of the United States are nothing more than heavily-armed CRIMINALS, who have ILLEGALLY seized control of our nation. And, they clearly have no qualms about using ANY force necessary to completely control "...the people", solely for the benefit of a powerful few.

I just hope I can get my children out of the country before the shooting starts.
Posted by Had_to_be_said (384 comments )
Reply Link Flag
screw the police
and screw the federales and screw georgie porgie. we all know
what really needs to happen
Posted by 03296 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
screw the police
and screw the federales and screw georgie porgie. we all know
what really needs to happen
Posted by 03296 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
screw the police
and screw the federales and screw georgie porgie.
Posted by 03296 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Motherland, The Fatherland...
The Nazi Stormtroopers on both sides of the aisle are out in full force. God we need a viable 3rd party in the country to save us from this rampant corruption.

As for the rationale about saving us from Errorists, the Guberment doesn't really want to catch the bad guys. They need a foil to keep the public in a constant state of unbalance, and a never ending money pit called protecting the Fatherland, to continue to pay for no bid contracts. Read how Arbusto turned down daily opportunities to get Zarqawi for over a year. We knew exactly where he was and The Man would not allow him to be liquidated.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by maxwis (141 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why Are Palo Alto Spycams Pointing Down?
Drive along Sand Hill Road and you will see numerous spy (traffic) cams on lightposts pointing down. What's that all about? Are they trying to look down women's cleavage or something? Who watches the watchers? Does the angel in the whirlwind still direct this storm?
Posted by maxwis (141 comments )
Reply Link Flag
King George Does It Again..."Orwellian"
This is like something out of a George Orwell novel but then this whole administration is like something out of a George Orwell novel.
Just think Orwell predicted it in his novel "1984" and he was only 20 years and a few presidents off the mark.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually I think the references to King George should be replaced by Chairman George.

The actions this administration is attempting are more similar to China's oppressive regime than the fantasy created about the English prior to independance.

The Founding Fathers were nothing more than rich white men who didn't want to pay their taxes - and have more in common with today's CEOs than any sort of freedom fighter we associate them with.

But requiring US Citizens to fill out travel forms detailing which countries you're visiting, where you'll be staying and reasons for your visit, as well as recording your conversations and internet activities are far more reminiscent of the propaganda we were fed during the cold war.

Also consider this. It's not related but certainly worth consideration.

Supposedly passengers of commecial jetliner that crash into remote wilderness regions of the Andes and were forced to eat their companions often stated that people taste like chicken. This has been confirmed by other groups that have taken part in weird tribal rituals and such.

So if this is true, that human flesh tastes like chicken, doesn't it follow that chicken tastes like people?

Just something to ponder over your next McChicken sandwich.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Link Flag
No guarantee to protect our privacy
I understand the need for national security, but there is nothing to guarantee our privacy, and nothing to show that no abuse of our privacy will take place. We know that policing of the exchange of emails already takes place, where key words in any email are automatically highlighted and looked at. So, what's different?
Posted by TamT (3 comments )
Link Flag
No guarantee to protect our privacy
I understand the need for national security, but there is nothing to guarantee our privacy, and nothing to show that no abuse of our privacy will take place. We know that policing of the exchange of emails already takes place, where key words in any email are automatically highlighted and looked at. So, what's different?
"1984" has been with us for some time!
Posted by TamT (3 comments )
Link Flag
It is inevitable
If you read that linked house committee report, it is clear that they did not anticipate that we would 10 years late be moving toward a single, internet-based communications network. Or maybe, perhaps they did anticipate it, but not want to discuss it. Either way, they said that the law wouldn't apply to "internet service providers" but did allow that the FCC would have the power to expand the definition of "telecommunications carriers" in the event that something new substitutes for traditional telephone service. Since internet based communications are now replacing telephones, the FCC seems to be on solid ground in expanding the reach of the law, and it is up to the universities to petition Congress if they are to get any compensation.
Posted by andrewp111 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do you work for the government?
With all that rhetoric you just spouted, it sounds like it. The FCC has no such power. Hell, they're trying to get the right to censor satellite and cable. They're expanding their powers unconstitutionally by leaps and bounds and acting like a mythical fourth co-equal branch of government. Actually, it's worse than that, they're acting like they're above the other branches and just get to decide what laws to pass own their own. They need to be reained in and Kevin Martin needs to lose his job ASAP!
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Link Flag
Why the outrage now?
All this ruling is doing is extending current requirements from 1994 to new technology that wasn't around then. The internet has never been private, and phone taps go back before J. Edgar Hoover if you think its just under this administration that you have been monitored you are sorely mistaken.
Posted by kaufmanmoore (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Only congress can extend the act...
... and if they did, we'd be just as outraged. I guess you do like your freedom. Becuase "other people wiretapped" doesn't make it right, I guess you'll excuse Bush for the NSA scandal becuase Nixon did it? Nixon was the reason FISA was created, to prevent abuses of power from happening again. I have to ask, if you don't like your freedom, why don't you go to another country more suitable with your needs? We do you feel you should get the right to take the rest of us who do cherish freedom, freedoms away?
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Link Flag

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