Feds Infighting Over College Wiretapping

    May 8, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

US Senator Lamar Alexander and his ex-staffer Deborah Taylor Tate now occupy opposing positions on the issue of colleges funding network upgrades that will make them compliant with federal wiretapping needs.

The Washington Wire blog recently posted about the divide between Alexander and Tate with regards to their viewpoints on college and university compliance with the federal law called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

Alexander spoke in February and criticized the FCC’s support of an unfunded mandate by the FCC to force higher education to pay billions to upgrade their computer networks. Those upgrades would enable government and law enforcement to easily monitor calls or Internet traffic.

Tate, who once reported to Alexander, thinks the contentions by colleges and universities have been “highly speculative” where cost is concerned. Though she does not necessarily want to make higher education even more costly for students and families, she still endorsed a May 2007 deadline for compliance.

The FCC has been the subject of other actions over CALEA. And it did not come off well in a recent hearing, where a federal judge scoffed at the FCC attorney arguing in favor of CALEA. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards called attorney Jacob Lewis’ arguments “nonsense” and “gobbledygook” during a hearing.

At issue is a provision in the original CALEA terms as written in 1994. That provision as emphasized by a House committee report excluded email services, online services, or Internet service providers from CALEA, CNet said in a report. The FCC still clings to the viewpoint that “telecommunications provider” also means broadband and VoIP providers.

The debate also has to resolve what parts of a college network must be rendered wiretap-friendly. That could mean the “pipes” connecting a campus to the Internet, or the entire network infrastructure of the campus.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.