Court questions US regulators on wireless tapping

US telecom regulators faced tough questioning from a federal appeals court about whether the government could force broadband Internet service providers to give law enforcement authorities access for surveillance purposes, a Reuters report said.

The report said one of the three judges hearing the case called the government's rationale for the surveillance requirement "gobbledygook," while another expressed reservations, the report said.

The issue before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was a decision by the FCC in August requiring facilities-based broadband providers and those that offered Internet telephone service to comply with US wiretap laws, the report said.

The FCC had set a May 14, 2007 deadline for compliance, the report further said.

The report said authorities were reportedly concerned that the growth of Internet communications could allow criminals to circumvent wiretaps by using email and Internet phone service instead of traditional telephone services.

The FCC decision prompted an appeal by universities and libraries. The groups, including the American Library Association and Association of American Universities, challenged the agency's authority to extend such requirements to high-speed Internet services, the report said.

The groups challenging the decision noted that the law contained an exemption for "information services." They said the FCC had long included broadband Internet in that category.