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The FCC Fumbles VoIP Wiretapping Rules

The know-nothings who run the FCC are at it again: This time they've fumbled new rules extending a federal wiretapping law to VoIP.
The FCC ruling, issued last Friday, says that any VoIP provider linking to the public phone network must be wiretap-ready by 2007. The ruling focues on how the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) related to VoIP. On the face of it, the logic seems clear.

But in fact, the ruling is anything but clear or logical. Left vague is whether the ruling applies to not-for-profit organizations, universities, small rural broadband providers and others. It even implies that it applies to individual hot spot providers, such as at coffee shops and hotels, which would certainly be onerous. But then in a footnote, the rulling notes that the regulations "are not intended" to cover hot spots.

Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), told this week: "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."

The CDT warns on its Web site that the vagueness of the ruling will likely lead to a suit, with the plaintiffs arguing "that the decision exceeds the terms of the statute, imposes undue burdens on innovation and threatens the privacy of Internet users."

What's with the FCC --- can't they ever make a correct decision, or at least a clear one? They're thoroughly unqualified to handle issues related to new-generation technologies. It's time for Bush to throw them out and get a new crew.