Today, a coalition of public interest and business groups- including our client, pulver.com, asked a federal appeals court to overturn a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling requiring that broadband Internet and interconnected voice-over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services be designed to make government wiretapping easier.
In a ruling finalized Oct. 13, the FCC ordered distributors of broadband and certain VOIP services to comply with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) of 1994. CALEA requires telephone companies to design their systems to ensure a baseline level of government wiretapping capability. When Congress passed CALEA in 1994 it specifically exempted the Internet from its reach.
The civil liberties, privacy and high-tech industry advocates opposing the FCC ruling warn that it extends the wiretapping rules to technologies it was never intended to cover, imposes a burdensome government mandate on innovators and threatens the privacy rights of individuals who use the Internet and other new communications technologies.
We helped support the Center for Democracy and Technology , along with COMPTEL, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Sun Microsystems in distributiing news about filing the appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Congress realized in 1994 that the Internet was fundamentally different from the telephone system, and specifically refrained from applying CALEA to the Internet and "information services" carried over it. Although ISPs and Internet application providers must (and do) comply with interception orders under the wiretap laws, they have not until now been burdened with FBI-imposed design mandates.