Feds' Wiretapping Law Takes Aim At Skype

An FCC order requiring that VoIP companies comply with traditional telephone wiretapping rules could end up crippling Skype and other peer-to-peer VoIP companies -- and stifle innovation to boot....

October 21, 2005

1 Min Read
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An FCC order requiring that VoIP companies comply with traditional telephone wiretapping rules could end up crippling Skype and other peer-to-peer VoIP companies -- and stifle innovation to boot. The ruling has to do with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which requires phone companies to have equipment to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to wiretap phone calls.

The FCC recently ruled that peer-to-peer VoIP providers have to comply with that law --- even though there's no clear way for the companies to do so. Peer-to-peer VoIP calls don't go through a central server, and they travel over the Internet, rather than a dedicated network. So how can the companies ensure the calls can be wiretapped?

No one knows, least of all the FCC. As usual, the FCC is clueless.

Critics warn that putting companies like Skype and others into this legal limbo will stifle innovation.

"What the FBI has asked for, and what the FCC has to date given them, would require any new developer of a voice-based technology to submit their application for the FBI's approval before even one single person on the Internet can try it," John Morris of the Center for Democracy and Technology told Wired News.Jeff Pulver, who co-founded Vonage and runs the free peer-to-peer VoIP service FWD, added that the rules "take away our freedom to innovate and take away inspiration for people to be entrepreneurial in this space."

Expect lawsuits to follow.

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