September 26, 2005 2:05 PM PDT

Wiretap rules for VoIP, broadband coming in 2007

Broadband providers and Internet phone services have until spring 2007 to follow a new and complex set of rules designed to make it easier for police to seek wiretaps, federal regulators have ruled.

It's clear from the Federal Communications Commission's 59-page decision (click for PDF), released late Friday evening, that any voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, provider linking with the public telephone network must be wiretap-ready. That list would include companies such as Vonage, SkypeOut and Packet 8.

But what remains uncertain is what the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) ruling means for companies, universities, nonprofits--and even individuals offering wireless or other forms of Internet access.

"Because of that very fundamental difference between the Internet and the public switched network, the commission has had a hard time defining who, exactly, is covered, and they have in this order completely punted on the question of who is responsible for what," Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said Monday.

Terrorism and homeland security concerns make such regulations necessary, the FCC said, echoing the arguments of Bush administration officials who have warned of VoIP services becoming a "haven" for terrorists, criminals and spies. "It is clearly not in the public interest to allow terrorists and criminals to avoid lawful surveillance by law enforcement agencies by using broadband Internet access services," the FCC said.

Even though the FBI has been lobbying on this topic since at least mid-2003, and regulators have been formally considering the request since March 2004, the rules remain fuzzy. The FCC's order says, for instance, that "we reach no conclusions" about whether universities, and small and rural broadband providers, must cease providing Net connectivity until their networks comply with police requirements.

The FCC's 59-page rule applies to any "Internet access service" that offers upstream or downstream speeds of at least 200kbps--which would easily cover Wi-Fi hot spots operated by individuals or businesses. In a footnote, however, the FCC suggests that its regulations "are not intended" to cover hotels, coffee shops and bookstores that provide Wi-Fi service.

Some answers are likely to come in a second regulation that the FCC promises to release by the end of the year. That's also expected to address whether taxpayers will pay for the cost of equipment upgrades and yield more details about deadlines. (The requirements kick in 18 months from the formal publication of the rules in the Federal Register--which has not happened yet--yielding a deadline of about April 2007.)

An FCC representative who did not want to be identified by name said Monday that "whoever operates the system" would be subject to federal wiretap requirements. The representative said someone who "actually has a network"--as opposed to a cafe that just buys Internet service--would be responsible for complying.

Representatives from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Voice On the Net Coalition said they would work with the FCC to ensure that their services complied with the requirements, though they acknowledged that important questions remained unanswered.

"Not without legal risk"
Injecting additional uncertainty is whether the FCC's action is legal. It represents what critics call an unreasonable extension of 1994's CALEA--which was designed to address telephone features such as three-way calling and call waiting--to the Internet.

A House of Representatives committee report prepared in October 1994 emphatically says CALEA's requirements "do not apply to information services such as electronic-mail services; or online services such as CompuServe, Prodigy, America Online or Mead Data (Central); or to Internet service providers."

When Congress was debating CALEA, then-FBI Director Louis Freeh reassured nervous senators that the law would be limited to telephone calls. "So what we are looking for is strictly telephone--what is said over a telephone?" Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., asked during one hearing.

Freeh replied: "That is the way I understand it. Yes, sir."

Two of the four FCC commissioners who voted for the extension on Friday acknowledged that the federal government was on shaky legal ground. The FCC's regulation is based on arguing that the law's definition of "telecommunications carrier" applies to broadband and VoIP providers.

Kathleen Abernathy said: "Because litigation is as inevitable as death and taxes, and because some might not read the statute to permit the extension of CALEA to the broadband Internet access and VoIP services at issue here, I have stated my concern that an approach like the one we adopt today is not without legal risk."

Michael Copps warned that if a court case leads to the rules being struck down, Friday's move may have done "more harm than good." The FCC's logic, he said, was "built on very complicated legal ground."

The FCC is no stranger to having its decisions rejected by a federal appeals court that can be hostile to what it views as regulatory overreaching. In May, for instance, the FCC's "broadcast flag" was unceremoniously tossed out by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

"They basically rewrote the statute," said Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, referring to the application of CALEA to the Internet. "After a year or more of studying this question, the commission has failed to answer some basic questions. I'm afraid that the FBI will step into the vacuum and start claiming that it needs this or that."

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28 comments

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Terrorism?
Yes, Bush's Administration is making the most sense (as always.) As a way to DESTROY the US Economy, terrorists will use US VoIP providers. They communicated before VoIP, they will communicate after. And it doesn't seem to me like we're going in to Northern Ireland. I wish they would cut the "PC" crap and then we'd get some truth. They want to tap us for control. It's stupid and they shouldn't have that authority. Government derives its power from the consent of the Governed.
Posted by CNerd2025 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
gosh, that's terrible
:)
Posted by Lolo Gecko (131 comments )
Link Flag
Terrorism?
Yes, Bush's Administration is making the most sense (as always.) As a way to DESTROY the US Economy, terrorists will use US VoIP providers. They communicated before VoIP, they will communicate after. And it doesn't seem to me like we're going in to Northern Ireland. I wish they would cut the "PC" crap and then we'd get some truth. They want to tap us for control. It's stupid and they shouldn't have that authority. Government derives its power from the consent of the Governed.
Posted by CNerd2025 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
gosh, that's terrible
:)
Posted by Lolo Gecko (131 comments )
Link Flag
You didnt think that you actually still lived in a free country, did you?
ALL PRIVATE ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS TAPPED BY 2007.

Actually, most of it already is.

And, yes, wiretap-ready, means effectively already wire-tapped. Well, Im ready to be monitored, tracked, controlled and dictated to... by whoever pulls the strings of Governemnt... for my own good.

Arent you?
Posted by (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
For your own good???
Georgia -- Two vegans involved in a protest detected a person taking photographs, walked over and wrote down the license number of the photographer on a note. The photographer demanded the note and the vegans refused, and left the site. When they pulled into a convenience store they were apprehended by the photographer (who turned out to be a detective working for homeland security) and a marked police car. Again a demand for the note and again a refusal. That was followed by an arrest, (subsequently charges were dropped) Turned out that the detective didn't want his license plate number spread around. (Duh, don't get caught) Currently, the vegan couple have filed a lawsuit against all parties involve.

And you think this was all FOR THEIR OWN GOOD??? Too many authorities don't give a damn for the Constitution. DON'T TRUST THEM!!!
Posted by Ravin RoadKill (8 comments )
Link Flag
You didnt think that you actually still lived in a free country, did you?
ALL PRIVATE ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS TAPPED BY 2007.

Actually, most of it already is.

And, yes, wiretap-ready, means effectively already wire-tapped. Well, Im ready to be monitored, tracked, controlled and dictated to... by whoever pulls the strings of Governemnt... for my own good.

Arent you?
Posted by (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
For your own good???
Georgia -- Two vegans involved in a protest detected a person taking photographs, walked over and wrote down the license number of the photographer on a note. The photographer demanded the note and the vegans refused, and left the site. When they pulled into a convenience store they were apprehended by the photographer (who turned out to be a detective working for homeland security) and a marked police car. Again a demand for the note and again a refusal. That was followed by an arrest, (subsequently charges were dropped) Turned out that the detective didn't want his license plate number spread around. (Duh, don't get caught) Currently, the vegan couple have filed a lawsuit against all parties involve.

And you think this was all FOR THEIR OWN GOOD??? Too many authorities don't give a damn for the Constitution. DON'T TRUST THEM!!!
Posted by Ravin RoadKill (8 comments )
Link Flag
Why doen't this suprize me?
I should just make it even easier for them. I'll walk in to the police station and give them the keys to may car, truck, home, file cabinet, safe all my passwords a transcript of al my internet and computer works and recorded phone conversations. Then pull my pants down to my knees bend over and say "please give it to me good!" *LOL*
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why doen't this suprize me?
I should just make it even easier for them. I'll walk in to the police station and give them the keys to may car, truck, home, file cabinet, safe all my passwords a transcript of al my internet and computer works and recorded phone conversations. Then pull my pants down to my knees bend over and say "please give it to me good!" *LOL*
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Interesting thing about wiretaps...
IIRC, wiretaps are executed by simply by
accessing a switching system connected to an
internet addressable device. It seems to me that
I was reading that one big issue insiders had
with the system was that it was fundamentally an
open / unsecured system. Anyone with knowledge
about how to access it could wiretap from the
comfort of their own home.

I suppose that wouldn't be too much of a concern
if it weren't for the fact that there was the
growing suspicion that only a small fraction of
wiretaps were being performed by US law
enforcement and a disproportionate number were
coming from overseas...

It doesn't matter really. If you need a secure
communication channel, you can obtain one.
Wiretaps will catch simple criminals, not spies
or terrorists. Spies and terrorists have very
effective means of secure communication that
won't be impacted by any of this.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Exactly
I love how the government talks about terrorists as these
incredibly smart people, but instead they spend time going after
stuff that any kid over the age of ten can best. It is proof of how
ignorant some of them can be. Protecting America versus
turning our country into a dictatorship will be the downfall of
this country. Our government has become a textbook definition
of what the word over-reacting means. I cannot wait until they
tell little old ladies they cannot make quilts because they could
contain subversive or terrorist messages.
Posted by jasonemanuelson1 (82 comments )
Link Flag
Next thing to ban...
Probably they'll try banning tin cans and string... I hate the way the Gov. imposes the "It's for your own good" stuff. Is this Democracy? Or some sort of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureaucracy#Karl_Marx_and_bureaucracy">bureaucracy</a>?!
Posted by rolandog (6 comments )
Link Flag
Interesting thing about wiretaps...
IIRC, wiretaps are executed by simply by
accessing a switching system connected to an
internet addressable device. It seems to me that
I was reading that one big issue insiders had
with the system was that it was fundamentally an
open / unsecured system. Anyone with knowledge
about how to access it could wiretap from the
comfort of their own home.

I suppose that wouldn't be too much of a concern
if it weren't for the fact that there was the
growing suspicion that only a small fraction of
wiretaps were being performed by US law
enforcement and a disproportionate number were
coming from overseas...

It doesn't matter really. If you need a secure
communication channel, you can obtain one.
Wiretaps will catch simple criminals, not spies
or terrorists. Spies and terrorists have very
effective means of secure communication that
won't be impacted by any of this.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Exactly
I love how the government talks about terrorists as these
incredibly smart people, but instead they spend time going after
stuff that any kid over the age of ten can best. It is proof of how
ignorant some of them can be. Protecting America versus
turning our country into a dictatorship will be the downfall of
this country. Our government has become a textbook definition
of what the word over-reacting means. I cannot wait until they
tell little old ladies they cannot make quilts because they could
contain subversive or terrorist messages.
Posted by jasonemanuelson1 (82 comments )
Link Flag
Next thing to ban...
Probably they'll try banning tin cans and string... I hate the way the Gov. imposes the "It's for your own good" stuff. Is this Democracy? Or some sort of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureaucracy#Karl_Marx_and_bureaucracy">bureaucracy</a>?!
Posted by rolandog (6 comments )
Link Flag
Wiretapping For Dummies
Put FEMA in charge of wiretapping. They have shown us what a stellar job they are capable of doing. If we're lucky, we can get a horse judge to run the outfit. Oh, and here's a tip for the Federales. If your looking for terrorists, start with the mosques. Like the Mafia who hung out in Italian resturants and pizza joints, you are more likely to find them there than sitting in Starbucks communicating with Osama in his cave on the Afghan/Pakistani border, which BTW no one can seem to find. Maybe you can give the terrorists GPS while you are at it. Bureacratic numbskulls.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wiretapping For Dummies
Hi Keith,
Great Idea. It seems the only thing the Federales are adept at is taking our constitutional rights away. FYI: Osama died in Dec. 2001 &#38; Zarqawi is also dead. Whenever you hear their names &#38; their subsequent "terror threats" or "beheadings, bombings, etc" rest assured they, themselves are hardly a threat, as they are as dead as dead can be. Just another "FEAR FACTOR" our gov't is so very good at producing.
Posted by (4 comments )
Link Flag
Wiretapping For Dummies
Put FEMA in charge of wiretapping. They have shown us what a stellar job they are capable of doing. If we're lucky, we can get a horse judge to run the outfit. Oh, and here's a tip for the Federales. If your looking for terrorists, start with the mosques. Like the Mafia who hung out in Italian resturants and pizza joints, you are more likely to find them there than sitting in Starbucks communicating with Osama in his cave on the Afghan/Pakistani border, which BTW no one can seem to find. Maybe you can give the terrorists GPS while you are at it. Bureacratic numbskulls.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wiretapping For Dummies
Hi Keith,
Great Idea. It seems the only thing the Federales are adept at is taking our constitutional rights away. FYI: Osama died in Dec. 2001 &#38; Zarqawi is also dead. Whenever you hear their names &#38; their subsequent "terror threats" or "beheadings, bombings, etc" rest assured they, themselves are hardly a threat, as they are as dead as dead can be. Just another "FEAR FACTOR" our gov't is so very good at producing.
Posted by (4 comments )
Link Flag
Getting nowhere fast...
The FBI is heading the wrong way. Instead of making sure (by spying in on people) that everyone behaves... there are better ways to make sure people will do 'the right thing'. If you educate everyone properly (teach them enough moral values) then, just then, people will start acting in a civilized way.
Posted by rolandog (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Getting nowhere fast...
The FBI is heading the wrong way. Instead of making sure (by spying in on people) that everyone behaves... there are better ways to make sure people will do 'the right thing'. If you educate everyone properly (teach them enough moral values) then, just then, people will start acting in a civilized way.
Posted by rolandog (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VoIP Broadband
This FCC mandate is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by the FCC, an Administrative Branch agency, to freely snoop on those they deem enemies, including Democrat political opponents.
The basic premise underlying the FCC action, that VoIP requires a broadband connection (&gt;= 200kb) is just plain wrong. A bandwidth of 1/10 as much, or 20 kbps is more than adequate for VoIP or Internet chat. Not to mention the fact that one could simply create a VPN connection over a public network and encapsulate the voice and data stream using a proprietary protcol. There is no need to use a public VoIP provider to do VoIP if you are constantly communicating with the same people.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VoIP Broadband
This FCC mandate is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by the FCC, an Administrative Branch agency, to freely snoop on those they deem enemies, including Democrat political opponents.
The basic premise underlying the FCC action, that VoIP requires a broadband connection (&gt;= 200kb) is just plain wrong. A bandwidth of 1/10 as much, or 20 kbps is more than adequate for VoIP or Internet chat. Not to mention the fact that one could simply create a VPN connection over a public network and encapsulate the voice and data stream using a proprietary protcol. There is no need to use a public VoIP provider to do VoIP if you are constantly communicating with the same people.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Special device for listening to VOIP conversations
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://store1.yimg.com/I/yhst-50384103564030_1869_20192832" target="_newWindow">http://store1.yimg.com/I/yhst-50384103564030_1869_20192832</a>

Locked in the air (FEMA wants your wep password), on the cable and in the transmission. I've tryed explaining what a certificate is and why you can't have it to some people but they will never learn.
What is secured? Alex.
Posted by (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How Easy Is It?
I have recently switched to Vonage, partly out of frustration with utter lack of customer service by the Southern Belle, and partly out of concern for security...I have a Public Corruption Research Company, and my phone has been messed with a number of times, both at the box, and at the "station".

So, what can I be aware of, to watch/listen for, regarding my Vonage Service? I am not worried about the feds, but local law enforcement in the Good Old Boy South, is very often puppet strung by the folks I am investigating.

Thanks
Posted by EdmundBurke (2 comments )
Link Flag
Special device for listening to VOIP conversations
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://store1.yimg.com/I/yhst-50384103564030_1869_20192832" target="_newWindow">http://store1.yimg.com/I/yhst-50384103564030_1869_20192832</a>

Locked in the air (FEMA wants your wep password), on the cable and in the transmission. I've tryed explaining what a certificate is and why you can't have it to some people but they will never learn.
What is secured? Alex.
Posted by (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How Easy Is It?
I have recently switched to Vonage, partly out of frustration with utter lack of customer service by the Southern Belle, and partly out of concern for security...I have a Public Corruption Research Company, and my phone has been messed with a number of times, both at the box, and at the "station".

So, what can I be aware of, to watch/listen for, regarding my Vonage Service? I am not worried about the feds, but local law enforcement in the Good Old Boy South, is very often puppet strung by the folks I am investigating.

Thanks
Posted by EdmundBurke (2 comments )
Link Flag
 

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