WASHINGTON-Comments filed last week at the Federal Communications Commission prove no one in the debate over digital wiretap has changed their tune as to how they believe the FCC should rule on the sticky questions of the suitability of an industry interim standard approved Dec. 8, and the compliance date quickly approaching this fall.

Law enforcement still is persuaded that compliance with the law passed in 1994 should be attained by Oct. 25 or at a maximum the FCC should give individual extensions based on specific circumstances.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association has asked the FCC to grant a blanket extension based on the uncertainty of the status of the industry standard. Various telecom carriers also have asked for waivers for the same reason.

In a joint filing, the FBI and the Department of Justice said their proposed standard-which includes the controversial punch-list items-should be used as a starting point for any FCC rule making on a capability standard rather than the industry interim standard.

Using the industry standard as “the basis for [a notice of proposed rule making] is likely to lead to a duplicative round [of comments] that will not assist [the FCC]. In contrast, using the government’s proposed rule as the basis for the NPRM will focus [additional comments] on the principal grounds of disagreement between law enforcement and industry,” the two agencies said.

The punch list contains nine items the industry claims go beyond the scope of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) of 1994.

Indeed, the United States Telephone Association, in its comments, said the punch-list items would expand the wiretap capabilities of law enforcement agencies.

“CALEA requires only that the industry standard preserve law enforcement’s ability to conduct electronic surveillance … These nine additional items will provide law enforcement with capabilities which were not available before CALEA was enacted,” USTA said in its filed comments.

In other action, CTIA asked the FCC to dismiss its petition from last summer urging the FCC to take action on CALEA.

The petition no longer is necessary because “action on CALEA is firmly in the laps of the FCC,” commented Tim Ayers, CTIA’s vice president for communications.


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