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[] USATODAY 10.07.02: FBI uneasy about plan to deregulate fast Net,

FBI uneasy about plan to deregulate fast Net

By Paul Davidson, USA TODAY

A federal plan to deregulate high-speed Internet access might have an 
unintended consequence: The FBI is worried it could hamper the fight 
against terrorism.

The FBI and Justice Department are concerned that the Federal 
Communications Commission'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' communications.

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.

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 up prices.

The Telecommunications Act currently forces the regional Bells to open 
their DSL networks to rivals; cable operators are under no such obligation.

The mandate on industry to design networks that can be wiretapped, however, 
is in the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

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 telecommunications pieces.

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 Bell rivals.

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 covers both.

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 Goodman. 

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