• United States
Managing Editor

Wiretap dance

May 04, 20062 mins

* The American Council on Education vs. the FCC

A petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could determine if higher education networks – and perhaps private enterprise networks – will be required to allow wiretapping by law enforcement agencies as soon as next year.

Oral arguments will be heard this week in the case of the American Council on Education vs. the FCC, which was submitted to the appeals court in mid-March. The petition is part of the ongoing appeal to the FCC’s Sept. 23, 2005, ruling that extends the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) wiretapping order to broadband Internet providers and “interconnected” VoIP providers next year.

The higher education community is concerned that the FCC ruling does not distinguish between public and private networks, and could potentially extend the CALEA compliance requirement to university and enterprise networks. Officials argue that such a requirement will:

* Cost higher education institutions billions of dollars in necessary network equipment upgrades.

* Open up another conduit by which hackers can access networks.

* Jeopardize rights to privacy and freedom of speech.

Last fall’s ruling does not specifically state that institutions of higher learning need comply with CALEA. But it does not rule it out, either.

Because it extends the wiretapping order to facilities-based Internet access providers that, by default, includes colleges and universities, critics claim. Broadband Internet access and VoIP providers need to be CALEA-compliant by May 14, 2007, according to the FCC.

A spokesman at the FCC said the commission has to date “reached no conclusion” on the issue of university compliance. But some college networking officials see the binary digits on the wall.

Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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