By Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
update WASHINGTON--Broadband providers and Internet phone companies will have to pick up the tab for the cost of building in mandatory wiretap access for police surveillance, federal regulators ruled Wednesday.
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to levy what likely will amount to wiretapping taxes on companies, municipalities and universities, saying it would create an incentive for them to keep costs down and that it was necessary to fight the war on terror. Universities have estimated their cost to be about $7 billion.
"The first obligation is...the safety of the people," said FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat. "This commission supports efforts to protect the public safety and homeland security of the United States and its people."
Federal police agencies have spent years lobbying for mandatory backdoors for easy surveillance, saying "criminals, terrorists and spies" could cloak their Internet communications with impunity unless centralized wiretapping hubs become mandatory. Last year, the FCC set a deadline of May 14, 2007, for compliance. But universities, libraries and some technology companies have filed suit against the agency, and arguments before a federal court are scheduled for Friday.
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