Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) is seeking changes to a House broadband-deregulation
bill to ensure that law enforcement can access advanced data networks to monitor
Oxley said he wants to amend the legislation to ensure that key deregulatory
provisions do not preclude the Federal Communications Commission from requiring
phone companies to comply with electronic-surveillance statutes.
'Our authorities must have the tools to intercept terrorist and criminal
communications. But a court order for wiretapping is useless unless law
enforcement can access the communications networks being used,' Oxley said in a
Sept. 19 letter to Reps. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), chief
sponsors of the legislation.
Under the bill (H.R. 1542), the Baby Bells would be allowed to enter the data
long-distance market immediately and restrict access to their advanced networks.
Moreover, the bill would bar the FCC, states and local government from
interfering with the Bells' Internet-access business.
Oxley said he was concerned that the pre-emption language could be read to
mean that the FCC is barred from requiring the Bells to comply with wiretapping
laws -- principally the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.
The amendment, Oxley said, would clarify that CALEA still applied under the
Tauzin-Dingell bill and would require CALEA compliance by the phone companies as
a condition of regulatory relief in the bill.
Tim Johnson, an aide to Oxley, said the amendment was gaining support
regarding the continued application of CALEA to the Baby Bells' data networks.
But he added that Oxley has been encountering resistance to the provision
requiring CALEA compliance prior to deregulation.
The Tauzin-Dingell bill narrowly passed the House Energy and Commerce
Committee. The House Judiciary Committee reported the bill with an unfavorable
Tauzin had been expecting House floor action this month, but the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon have forced the House and the
Senate to concentrate on national security and airline-bailout