In response to the growing popularity of VOIP, the federal government is requiring hundreds of universities and libraries to overhaul their Internet computer networks by 2007 to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to monitor e-mail and other online communications to help catch terrorists and other criminals.
One university advocate called it "the mother of all unfunded mandates."
As reported in the New York Times, this FCC order extends the provisions of a 1994 wiretap law that requires telephone carriers to engineer their switching systems at their own cost so that federal agents can easily access them for surveillance purposes.
Universities are protesting that it will cost them at least $7 billion to comply. And that's just for the equipment -- that doesn't count the installation costs or the ongoing costs of hiring and training staff to oversee those systems 24 hours a day, as the law requires.
Even the lowest cost estimates suggest this law will increase annual tuitions at most American universities by some $450.
Students, prepare to write your legislators...or prepare to open your checkbooks!