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Colleges Face $7 Billion Security Update

David UtterBy David Utter

To comply with federal wiretap requirements, universities in the US will have to upgrade a lot of expensive hardware and are complaining about the cost.

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) of 1994 mandated telecom companies to update switches to allow easy federal wiretaps. The rise of VoIP services has caused the FCC to extend that requirement beyond the telcos, the New York Times reported.

Anyone providing Internet access to customers, like ISPs, airports, libraries, or cities have to comply with CALEA as well. Universities fall into that mix, and have been voicing their displeasure with the expense. CALEA compels the service provider to make the updates at their expense, not the government's.

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The feds want to be able to monitor email, instant messaging, and VoIP upon obtaining a court order. Colleges do not dispute the need for law enforcement to investigate terrorists or other criminals, though they do disagree that monitoring will help. The spring 2007 deadline for compliance, as set down by the FCC, is the problem.

"It seems like overkill to make all these institutions spend this huge amount of money for a just-in-case kind of scenario," Florida State University's chief information officer Larry Conrad said in the report.

Already, lawyers for the biggest association of colleges and universities have begun planning appeals. The report did not state how much legal actions like these would cost the universities on top of the forthcoming compliance costs.

About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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