Thursday, May 04, 2006

Internet Telephone

No, not that kind of internet telephone. The internet version of the party game where everyone sits in a circle, one person whispers a sentence to the person next to him, he whispers it to the next person in the circle, and so on around the circle until it comes back, radically different, to the original person.

Let's start at the end. Techdirt has an article about proposed US data retention laws, which also includes a statement that
the FCC has (surprise, surprise) authorized new taxes on ISPs to pay for the mandatory wiretap access on broadband and VoIP services.
Wow. The FCC has authorized new taxes on ISPs. Let's follow the link and see exactly what CNET said.
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to levy what likely will amount to wiretapping taxes on companies, municipalities and universities, saying it would create an incentive for them to keep costs down and that it was necessary to fight the war on terror.
Hmm. "... to levy what likely will amount to wiretapping taxes on companies." Perhaps we should see exactly what the FCC said.

The R&O isn't available yet, but the release (PDF) says:
...the Order concludes that carriers are responsible for CALEA development and implementation costs for post-January 1, 1995 equipment and facilities, and declines to adopt a national surcharge to recover CALEA costs.
Wait a minute. The FCC said it's not going to authorize, levy, or impose new taxes to recover the cost of "facilities-based broadband Internet access providers and interconnected voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) providers" implementing CALEA. In only two hops and about 12 hours, that changed 180 degrees into "the FCC has authorized new taxes on ISPs."

If you want to be outraged about the civil liberty implications of requiring ISPs and VoIP providers to support CALEA, fine. If you want to castigate the FCC for appearing to extend CALEA obligations that were always intended for public networks (the term in the statute is "telecommunicatons carrier", which includes in its definition "common carrier for hire") to private network providers such as universities, go right ahead. If you want to bemoan the FCC's apparent intent to define ISPs as "information services" when it suits one policy goal but as "telecommunications providers" when it suits another, be my guest. You can even rail against the unfairness of the FCC providing $500M for ILECs to implement CALEA but providing nothing for the ISP or VoIP industry if you'd like.

But if you don't even get the facts right, your arguments lose a lot of their credibility.