FCC Says VoIP Subject To Wiretap Laws

5-0 vote approves a "notice for proposed rulemaking" that extends the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to IP-enabled communications.

August 5, 2004

1 Min Read
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The Federal Communications Commission today announced a proposed set of rules that would subject Voice over IP calls to the same wiretap laws that currently apply to circuit-switched communications.

By a unanimous 5-0 vote, the FCC commissioners approved a "notice for proposed rulemaking" that would extend the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to IP-enabled communications, according to a statement issued by FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

While the NPRM is not a final binding regulation, the unanimous decision made it clear that the FCC backs the view of law-enforcement agencies, who want to have the same access to packet-based communications that they have with the existing telephone system. The NPRM allows for a period of public comment before regulations become final.

According to Reuters, Powell said the ruling does not affect other regulatory questions surrounding VoIP, such as whether or not VoIP providers need to pay access fees to telecom service providers, or whether VoIP providers will be subject to taxes or fees like the Universal Service fund.

Some VoIP vendors have already taken steps to make their networks accessible to law enforcement, expecting such a direction from the FCC. FBI representatives have even taken the step of appearing at industry trade shows to answer questions about the need for access to communications in their law-enforcement activities.

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