26 March 1998
Thanks to DN

CNN Sci-Tech:

Justice to ask FCC to resolve dispute over wiretap technology
March 25, 1998
Web posted at: 7:38 p.m. EST (0038 GMT) 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department is expected to ask
the Federal Communications Commission this week to resolve a
dispute over preserving law enforcement's ability to tap telephone
lines in the digital age. 
Attorney General Janet Reno plans to file a petition to the FCC on
Friday, a Justice Department official said Wednesday. 
The petition will ask the FCC to decide what a 1994 law requires
the industry to provide law enforcement in the way of wiretapping
capabilities, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 
The law requires telecommunications companies to make digital
wiretapping technology available to law enforcers. But after three
years of negotiations, the telecommunications industry and the
Justice Department have not been able to agree on a plan for doing
Technical changes a point of contention 
One point of contention is what technical changes
telecommunications companies must make to ensure that phones
and other communications can be tapped legally as digital
technology replaces the analog technology that has long been in
use. Another is the cost of doing this and how much the
government and the industry would pay. 
Last Friday, Reno said that she would ask the FCC to step in and
resolve the matter, but she did not specify when a petition to bring
that about would be filed to the FCC. 
Once the dispute goes to the FCC, telecommunications executives
say they do not expect a quick resolution. 
Lacking a plan, the industry is expected to ask the FCC to extend
an October 28 deadline for companies to make the digital
technology available. With the order in place, companies that fail
to make the technical changes by then would face fines.