FCC: Universities Must Pay For Network Overhauls

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted May 3 to make Internet providers, including universities, pay for the overhaul of their Internet computer networks so law enforcement can more easily monitor E-mail and other online communications.

Technology experts estimate it will cost schools $7 billion just to buy the equipment. That figure does not include installation, staffing or service.

The new FCC requirement extends the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which requires phone services to set up their switching systems so federal agents can obtain easy access for surveillance.

The compliance deadline for facilities-based broadband Internet access and interconnected VoIP services is May 14, 2007. According to the FCC, this deadline gives providers of these services sufficient time to develop compliance solutions.

But universities, libraries, some companies and civil liberties groups have filed a lawsuit and are contending that the FCC is applying old rules designed for telephone systems to new technology. When they made these arguments before a U.S. appeals panel May 5, the court appeared to agree. One judge on the panel went so far as to say the government’s arguments were “gobbledygook.”

A decision on the FCC’s new rules is expected in several months.

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