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US universities challenge FBI wiretapping ruling

US universities have launched a legal challenge against new wiretapping rules that would force them to upgrade their networks to enable e-mail and internet surveillance by the FBI.

US universities have launched a legal challenge against new wiretapping rules that would force them to upgrade...

their networks to enable e-mail and internet surveillance by the FBI.

The American Council on Education, the co-ordinating body for US higher education institutions, filed its appeal challenging Federal Communications Commission regulations that extend the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act – originally aimed at telephone companies – to internet service providers, including universities.

The new rules would require internet service provides to upgrade their network switches and routers by June 2007 to allow remote monitoring – an upgrade the ACE estimates would cost colleges and universities $7bn (£4bn).

Sheldon Steinbach, ACE vice-president and general counsel, said, “In filing a suit, we hope to convince the FCC that colleges and universities can provide the same access through alternative approaches without the need to incur the $7bn expense of revamping our computer network systems.”

A second legal challenge is set to involve voice over IP firm Pulver.com, trade group CompTel and electronic privacy campaign groups.

Jonathan Askin, general counsel to Pulver.com, said the company was not directly hit by the regulations because it currently offers only peer-to-peer conversations rather than links to the traditional telephone network.

But he warned, “From a forward-looking policy perspective, I think the FCC has opened the door to regulating the entire internet.”

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