Under the hateful CALEA wiretap law, telco equipment has to be designed and configured to allow the Feds to snoop on communications. Now the same agencies that brought CALEA to America are advocating that Voice-over-IP equipment be likewise regulated to be amenable to eavesdropping, and they suggest that this is just a runup to a general regulation of broadband ISPs to allow for DSL and cablemodem sniffing.
Opponents of the CALEA expansion include AT&T and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. But the government's argument for the additional capabilities is the same one that persuaded Congress to pass CALEA in the first place eight years ago, and it only carries more weight today. "Although we cannot describe in this forum the particular circumstances, the FBI has sought interceptions of transmissions carried by broadband technology, including cable modem technology, in terrorism-related … investigations involving potentially life-threatening situations," the Justice Department wrote [pdf] in one of its filings last year. "Unless carriers are required to ensure such access, law enforcement surveillance capabilities will suffer a serious and dangerous gap." If the FCC adopts the government's position, then broadband's last mile will be the FBI's listening post, and Free World Dialup will be off the hook.