US courts may kick FCC's wiretapping plans into touch

There's an interesting battle developing in the US, where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has asked ISPs to provide call records and wire-tapping facilities for their Internet telephony calls.

Not unexpectedly, the US ISPs are up in arms about the request, and not just from a civil liberties point of view. They're concerned about the cost of meeting the Communications for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) compliance rules.

The ISPs are planning to take the FCC to court over the issue of whether VoIP phone calls can be considered similar to voice calls over PSTN circuits.

They argue - quite logically - that, although the service result is the same for the consumer, the underlying technology is radically different.

The court case could run and run, however, as it has significant ramifications for next-generation wireless and 3G networks, who are quietly developing their own VoIP services.

Which way will it go?

Legal experts remain divided on the issue. I suspect, sadly, though, that the technology arguments will be lost on the legal bigwigs...