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 that. 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.