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Verizon Wireless breaks with CTIA on CALEA expansion to PTT

WASHINGTON-Verizon Wireless said Wednesday that it does not agree with the position taken by the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association regarding the expansion of the digital wiretap act to information services, including push-to-talk.

“While CTIA does not specifically address wireless push-to-talk services in its comments, the above statement could be read to take the position that the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 does not apply to such services, and that the statute’s ‘information-services exemption’ broadly exempts ‘broadband and packet-mode technologies,’ ” said John T. Scott III, Verizon Wireless vice president and deputy general counsel of regulatory law. “Verizon Wireless does not agree that packet-mode services in general, or push-to-talk services in particular, are exempt from CALEA. To the contrary, Verizon Wireless concurs with law enforcement’s position that CALEA applies to all voice communications services offered by telecommunications carriers, including those that use packet-mode technologies.”

CTIA was among more than 50 parties that responded to the Federal Communications Commission’s request for comment on a March 10 law enforcement petition urging the FCC to allow the wiretapping and surveillance of new communications methods.

“Lawful intercept solutions are available today, and carriers are providing law enforcement with access to broadband and packet-mode technologies, but CALEA does not apply to these services because broadband access or connectivity to the Internet, and all the applications that ride over it, are within CALEA’s information-services exemption, which applies regardless of whether the entity providing the service is a telecommunications carrier or a replacement for local exchange service,” said CTIA.

Law enforcement has always been concerned that new technology renders useless their ability to trace criminals. The debate regarding new technologies is not new, and in fact, goes back to the initial implementation of CALEA when law enforcement and the telecommunications industry crossed swords regarding whether packet-mode technologies were covered. The issue has never been resolved, but rather than include that debate in the record of this proceeding, the FCC said it will start with the new slate of comments filed Monday.

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