Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)

Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) released a 59-page decision on September 23, 2005 which provides that any voice over IP, or VoIP, provider linking with the public telephone network must be wiretap-ready. The rule would cover the major VOIP providers such as Packet 8, SkypeOut and Vonage. However, the rule also applies to any “internet access service” that offers upstream or downstream speeds of at least 200kbps. The requirements may be onerous for smaller entities. In a footnote, the ruling notes that the regulations “are not intended” to cover hot spots. However, greater clarity on applicability will likely be forthcoming in a second regulation, expected by the end of the year.

Its applicability to P2P-based VOIP networks such as Skype would interesting. While the Rule would likely cover the SkypeOut service which provides Skype users with connectivity to the public telephone network, finding a means to provide access to encrypted P2P transmissions which travel between two people not using the public network would likely be very problematic.