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Federal appeals court upholds FCC broadband wiretap access rules

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [PDF text] the Federal Communication Commission's ability to require broadband Internet companies and Internet phone service providers to comply with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) [text; FCC materials], which requires telecommunications companies to allow law enforcement officials access to their networks. CALEA applies only to "telecommunications carriers," and the FCC has historically classified broadband Internet as an "information service." In the 2-1 opinion, however, the federal appeals court said that the intent of CALEA was to provide security officials access to communications networks, and so the FCC may classify broadband providers differently for CALEA purposes than for other purposes.

The new rules [PDF] were challenged [JURIST report] by a coalition of privacy and technology groups. The government argued [JURIST report] for expanding the scope of CALEA to cover broadband providers so that terrorists will be prevented from shielding their communications by using broadband Internet phone providers instead of traditional landlines. The new rules [PDF] took effect [JURIST report] in November and require broadband Internet companies to modify their systems to permit wiretaps by June 2007. Reuters has more.

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