Net Phone Calls Must Be Able to Be Tapped - FCC
2 hours, 41 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Internet phone carriers such as Vonage should set up their systems so U.S. law enforcers can monitor suspicious calls, the Federal Communications Commission (news - web sites) tentatively ruled on Wednesday.
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By a vote of 5-0, the FCC (news - web sites) said "voice over Internet protocol," or VoIP, providers should be subject to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which ensures that law enforcers will be able to keep up with changing communications technologies.
VoIP service is likely to replace much traditional phone service over the coming years, the commission said.
The Justice Department (news - web sites), FBI (news - web sites) and Drug Enforcement Administration have argued that they must be able to monitor suspicious calls no matter how they are made.
Technology advocates have worried that the fast-growing service, which promises to slash costs by routing phone calls over the Internet, could be harmed by excessive regulation.
The ruling does not affect other regulatory questions surrounding VoIP service, such as how it should be taxed, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said.
"Our tentative conclusion, while correct, is expressly limited to the requirements of the CALEA statute and does not indicate a willingness on my part to find that VoIP services are telecommunications services," Powell said at a commission meeting.
Commercial "push to talk" services offered by wireless providers like Nextel Communications Inc. should also be subject to CALEA, the FCC ruled.
The ruling on "push to talk" services is final, but the FCC will accept further public comments before making its ruling on VoIP final.