From: Otis Willie
Subject: FBI uneasy about plan to deregulate fast Net
Organization: The American War Library
NNTP-Posting-Date: Tue, 09 Jul 2002 18:14:15 EDT
Date: Tue, 09 Jul 2002 22:14:15 GMT
FBI uneasy about plan to deregulate fast Net
(EXCERPT) Tue Jul 9,11:01 AM ET
Paul Davidson USA TODAY
A federal plan to deregulate high-speed Internet access might have an
unintended consequence: The FBI ( news - web sites) is worried it
could hamper the fight against terrorism.
The FBI and Justice Department ( news - web sites) are concerned that
the Federal Communications Commission ( news - web sites)'s decision
to classify broadband as an ''information'' service could disrupt
their ability to trace the e-mail and Internet activity of terrorists
and other criminals.
Only ''telecommunications'' services are required, By law to design
their networks so that the government can easily tap into suspects'
If phone company DSL and cable-modem providers read the law literally,
authorities ''may be hobbled in their ability to . . . enforce the
laws and protect national security,'' the FBI wrote to the FCC ( news
- web sites).
The agencies do not oppose the FCC proposal. They want the FCC to say
that electronic-surveillance access rules also apply to the broadband
information offerings of phone and cable companies.
The controversy centers on the collision of two ostensibly unrelated
federal laws. Earlier this year, the FCC tentatively concluded that
DSL and cable-modem services are information rather than
telecommunications services, because they mainly entail storing and
generating data rather than transmitting it.
As a result, analysts expect that the FCC will rule that they need not
open their networks to rivals. Consumer advocates say that will drive
The Telecommunications Act currently forces the regional Bells to open
their DSL networks to rivals; cable operators are under no such
The mandate on industry to design networks that can be wiretapped,
however, is in the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act
Such a design can cost several hundred million dollars. Without it,
wiretaps are difficult, FBI officials say.
That law, however, applies only to telecommunications, not information
services. The FBI argues, however, that it includes ''joint-use''
services, such as broadband, that have information and
Critics of deregulation are skeptical. ''They can't have their cake
and eat it, too,'' says Jonathan Askin, general counsel for the
Association for Local Telecommunications Services, which represent
In other words, Askin believes that if the FCC upholds CALEA
requirements with regard to wiretaps, at least on DSL companies, that
could give open-access proponents such as his group ammunition for a
possible court battle on its issue.
CALEA now applies to DSL, but not cable-modem service, FCC officials
say. They would not comment on the FBI's petitions, which say CALEA
The United States Telecom Association, which represents Bells and
other local phone monopolies, would not comment.
Verizon Communications, the largest Bell, believes its DSL still would
be subject to CALEA, according to assistant general counsel John
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