Often, when I ask telecommunication providers who they use for their CALEA compliancy, I usually get that deer in the headlights look. Most remember hearing the acronym CALEA, but aren’t familiar with what it stands for, or they say, “I remember approving the bills, but not sure with who or why.”
The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), also known as the “Digital Telephony Act,” was passed in 1994. This came about because of Law Enforcement Agency (LEA) concerns with the increasing use of digital telephone switches, making tapping phone lines difficult.
In 2004, the FCC expanded the original order to include the ability to perform surveillance of all communications that travel over the Internet, such as Internet traffic and VoIP. Telecommunication Providers (broadband, cable, VoIP, WISP) were required to modify or upgrade hardware so that it wouldn’t interfere with the ability of LEA to perform real-time surveillance on any telephone or Internet traffic.
The majority of voice switches on the market since 1996 have the CALEA Intercept functionality built in, yet most models of Internet equipment, such as routers and switches, will require some sort of deep packet inspection probe to be compliant. In both voice and data Intercepts, CALEA equipment must be able to single out the subscriber info named in the warrant and send it directly to the LEA according to the industry standard delivery formats (c.f. ATIS T1.IAS, T1.678v2, et al.) Alternatively, it is also acceptable to deliver to an intermediate element called a mediation device, which completes the formatting and then communicates the data to the LEA.
In order to be compliant, a telecommunication provider (broadband, cable, VoIP, WISP) must either:
- develop its own compliance solution for its network
- purchase a compliance solution from a vendor
- purchase a compliance solution from a trusted third party (TTP).
Developing your own compliance solution can be difficult and may depend on certain skill sets within your organization that may not always be available. Purchasing a compliance hardware solution can cost tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars and may also need replaced as your network grows. Therefore, most providers utilize a CALEA TTP like Nex-Tech. We assist more than 120 service providers across the United States and charge a small monthly fee of $375* with no setup fees or equipment to purchase; it's just a good rate from a peer in the industry you can trust to deliver.
Most rural broadband providers say they have never been served a warrant and don’t anticipate ever seeing a warrant. Most complain that this is just another government mandated program to be compliant and cost them money. As a rural broadband provider ourselves and a CALEA TTP, I can tell you that CALEA warrants are real and they are happening everywhere, even here in the Midwest.
If you are unsure if you are CALEA Compliant or just want to do a comparison to your current CALEA compliance solution, contact me, Doug Kuntz, at 785-621-2974 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free no hassle consultation.
*Some restrictions apply