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Government Accuses Sprint of Overcharging For Wiretapping Expenses 114

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the funding-unfunded-mandates dept.
realized writes with news that the Federal government thinks Sprint overcharged them $21 million when billing for wiretaps. From the article: "Sprint, like all the nation's carriers, must comply with the Communications Assistance in Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which requires telcos to be capable of providing government-ordered wiretapping services. The act also allows carriers to recoup 'reasonable expenses' associated with those services. Sprint inflated charges approximately 58 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to a lawsuit the administration brought against the carrier today. ... The suit said that the wireless carrier breached Federal Communications Commission guidelines of 2006 that prohibited carriers from using intercept charges to recover costs of modifying 'equipment, facilities or services' to comply with the Communications Assistance in Law Enforcement Act."
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Government Accuses Sprint of Overcharging For Wiretapping Expenses

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  • Sounds like sound government policy.
    • by Cryacin (657549)
      Yeah, they overheard the idea when Mrs. Smith called Mrs. Brown last week and were discussing some "additional charges" on their phone bill.
    • by penix1 (722987) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:17PM (#46392377) Homepage

      What I don't get is why there is an FCC ruling forbidding telcos from being able to bill the government for modifications to their equipment to comply with the law?!?!? So it basically comes down to an unfunded mandate probably passed down to the very customers the government is spying on.

      • maybe this is why my comcast bill and cell bills were so high

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by sabri (584428)

        So it basically comes down to an unfunded mandate probably passed down to the very customers the government is spying on.

        No, this is basically the government outsourcing the cost of law enforcement to the private sector. Effectively, another form of taxing your local business. But since the TEA party doesn't like that, they called it something else.

        • by msauve (701917) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:45PM (#46392601)
          Tea is not an acronym. Why are you spelling it in all caps?

          Also, WTF are you trying to say? That they don't like "taxing your local business," or they don't like "outsourcing the cost of law enforcement to the private sector," or both?

          It sure seems like your hatred of whatever you think the tea party is, is getting in the way of any rational argument.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by pla (258480)
            Tea is not an acronym.

            As used, incorrect.

            It stands for "Taxed Enough Already".
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by mjwx (966435)

              Tea is not an acronym.

              As used, incorrect.

              It stands for "Taxed Enough Already".

              That's a backronym, not an acronym.

              I could just as easily claim it stood for Tossers, Eejits and Arseholes... which would still be entirely accurate.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by khallow (566160)

          But since the TEA party doesn't like that, they called it something else.

          So do you also dislike having the government tax your local business in order to pay for illegal government spying activities? Or is this just a TEA party thing?

          • by ruir (2709173)
            It is not taxing the local business, it is yet another hidden tax that trickles down on you...
        • by stenvar (2789879)

          Effectively, another form of taxing your local business. But since the TEA party doesn't like that, they called it something else.

          So you're implying it would be better if the Tea Party didn't oppose NSA wiretapping and encouraged the government to raise additional taxes for the explicit purpose of violating our privacy? Or what?

          • by sabri (584428)

            So you're implying it would be better if the Tea Party didn't oppose NSA wiretapping and encouraged the government to raise additional taxes for the explicit purpose of violating our privacy? Or what?

            What I'm implying is that the government first collects taxes from its citizens in order to provide "law enforcement" and "protection", and then taxes the internet access industry for exactly the same thing. Which of course, in the end, gets paid by the users.

            In short, the government is collecting money twice from its own citizens, to illegally spy on the same citizens that it should be protecting against illegal activities.

            • by stenvar (2789879)

              And this justifies a gratuitous dig at the Tea Party... why?

              • by sabri (584428)

                And this justifies a gratuitous dig at the Tea Party... why?

                I'm not digging at the Tea Party. I'm asserting that the government is trying to keep them as a friend by introducing this obligation without calling it a tax.

                • by stenvar (2789879)

                  I think that's a ridiculous suggestion. "The Government" is currently in Democratic hands; they don't give a f*ck about annoying the Tea Party.

                  • by sabri (584428)

                    I think that's a ridiculous suggestion. "The Government" is currently in Democratic hands; they don't give a f*ck about annoying the Tea Party.

                    I think you have trouble reading. The law enacting this compliance tax was created in 2006. When Mr Bush was president. You know, the GOP one.

                    • by stenvar (2789879)

                      There was no Tea Party in 2006 for Bush to appease. The Tea Party movement came into existence with Obama's election.

                      No matter how you try to spin it, your reference to the Tea Party is gratuitous and indefensible.

                    • by sabri (584428)

                      There was no Tea Party in 2006 for Bush to appease. The Tea Party movement came into existence with Obama's election. No matter how you try to spin it, your reference to the Tea Party is gratuitous and indefensible.

                      Well, let's see:

                      References to the Boston Tea Party were part of Tax Day protests held throughout the 1990s and earlier

                      source [wikipedia.org]

                    • by sabri (584428)

                      There was no "TEA party" before 2008, period. Really, man up and admit that you were completely wrong.

                      At least I provide a reference to support my arguments. I suggest you take my example and do the same.

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Crashing the Wiretapper's Ball ( 06.01.06)
        http://www.wired.com/science/d... [wired.com] shows some of the thinking at the time.
        EU & FBI launch global telecommunications surveillance system (Statewatch bulletin, January-February 1997, vol 7 no 1)
        http://www.statewatch.org/eufb... [statewatch.org] The idea was for the US gov to make sure all new emerging digital devices from a phone (POTS) replacement to ISP card at an exchange to consumer level/quality text encryption was US wiretap friendly i.e. as e.g. an old POTS was to trackin
      • by amiga3D (567632)

        We pay the taxes to pay these people to spy on us. You have to love it, you just can't make this shit up.

      • by Bob9113 (14996)

        an unfunded mandate

        There are a lot of unfunded mandates. They're an efficient way to run a market economy. Here are a few examples: Automobile manufacturers are subject to an unfunded mandate to include seat belts, odometers, and speedometers in the cars they sell in the US. Electronics manufacturers are subject to unfunded mandates regarding EMF emmissions. Food manufacturers are subject to unfunded mandates for food safety and product labeling. In most cases it is far more market efficient for the cost of

        • by DeSigna (522207)

          The same is true of comms here in Australia, where in order to obtain a carriers license, equipment must have certain features available for law enforcement purposes according to a set spec defined by the ACMA. There are also various data retention policies.

          However, when the government makes drastic and expensive changes to infrastructure requirements for their own desires, there's an expectation that they foot the bill for changes to existing gear. After all, they ARE the customers for these features. Fund

          • by Bob9113 (14996)

            After all, they ARE the customers for these features. Funding it out of government/law enforcement budgets accurately reflects the costs of the enforcement.

            The government is not the final customer for anything. It only exists to do our bidding. While I agree with your distaste for this activity, it does not mean the government is some third party with its own money to throw around. It is our money and our laws. The cost of policing a product or service should be born by its consumers. Whether the regulatio

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          Except that this case isn't really like any of those examples. In this case the government is mandating they provide a new service, to them; a service which doesn't benefit, and in fact, actually directly harms the privacy which the public/customer (an overlapping set) pay for.

          Then they mandate that the company may only pass on the costs of this new service to the very customers who are being harmed by it.

          • by Bob9113 (14996)

            In this case the government is mandating they provide a new service, to them; a service which doesn't benefit, and in fact, actually directly harms the privacy which the public/customer (an overlapping set) pay for.

            The government is not the final customer for anything. It only exists to do our bidding. While I agree with your distaste for this activity, it does not mean the government is some third party with its own money to throw around. It is our money and our laws. The cost of policing a product or serv

      • by flyneye (84093)

        hmmm, so you have to PAY to provide evidence against yourself. The lawyers oughta have fun with that, right out of the chute.
        When this is all over, I expect I will see this entire administration on trial as domestic terrorists, sitting there in court like Nazis at Nuremberg.
        Even if it doesnt, it SHOULD happen.

        • hmmm, so you have to PAY to provide evidence against yourself. The lawyers oughta have fun with that, right out of the chute.

          Carefull with that, it probably wouldn't take it where you want to go, pretty much every criminal can make that arguement.

  • Well, at least... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bin_jammin (684517) <Binjammin@gmail.com> on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:04PM (#46392261)
    the government now gets to experience the same bill-creep the rest of us poor suckers have been subject to all this time.
    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:44PM (#46392593)

      Government: [wags finger] Have you no shame? Have you no respect for the law?
      Sprint: [rubs nipples] I'm sorry sir, perhaps you should switch to another provider to snoop on our customers. Ooohh! That's not possible is it? - we're the only game in town.

      • by pla (258480) on Monday March 03, 2014 @08:03PM (#46392743) Journal
        You misunderstand... This has nothing to do with the special unconstitutional "buy the board new gold-plated helicopters and we'll looks the other way for 15 minutes while your techs play in our server room" spying on American citizens.

        This involves the run-of-the-mill unconstitutional "We spy on you plebes, suck it" police spying that the telecoms have to support per some random BS rights-stripping law from a decade or so back.

        Easy to mix them up, but do try to keep up with which TLA has fucked you today, it matters which organization has to throw your complaint away!


        / Well, at least someone in the government listens - If not necessarily quite how we want...
      • Basically the government is complaining that when they told Sprint to bend over and prepare for right violations, they didn't lube up sufficiently before the NSA went to town...

    • by Qzukk (229616) on Monday March 03, 2014 @08:02PM (#46392739) Journal

      Obviously they should just cancel their account and sign up again as a new customer.

    • by mSparks43 (757109)

      But you gotta admit, the ideal outcome is the court deciding they undercharged, slapping the government with another $21mill for Sprint plus legal expenses.

      Which is quite possible when the government branch that brought the action finds just how many wiretaps they were actually doing (all of it's 54+ million customers)

  • by fragfoo (2018548) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:06PM (#46392277)

    Not sure if this is laugh or crying material.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Not sure if this is laugh or crying material.

      Sounds like a good side-plot to a spy spoof. Too bad Leslie Nielsen isn't around to take advantage of it.

    • Sounds like it's crying time all around, actually.

      First, the government tells the telcos that they can't charge the government for the actual equipment costs of government spying. Then when they try to recoup the costs via fees, the government says they can't do that, either.

      It's good to be the King, eh?
    • I'll take sobbing guffaw for $500, Alex.
      Governments will do every nefarious thing the voters permit, in the name of the Common Good. See: TSA.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They waste money left and right - Whenever they blow several million or billion here and there they just dip the bucket back into the river of tax income which is always flowing like spring time. Why do they even care?

  • by oldhack (1037484) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:07PM (#46392293)
    Would be funny if it weren't so insidious.
  • clearly breached (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zlives (2009072) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:08PM (#46392305)

    well at least they didn't do anything illegal like wiretap the whole nation without cause or warrant.

    • I hate it too, but there's a fact I think we need to come to grips with. The Constitution permits the Supreme Court be its final interpreter, even when their interpretations are clearly ridiculous to the common citizen. This is perhaps a major flaw in our Constitution, but regardless, it's there.

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        Ultimately the control of the government has gotten away from the people. They've been divided and conquered by a political machine that shows two faces. One conservative and one liberal. Neither side truly believes in any ideology except money but they use the fact that people have vested interests in these issues to get them fighting each other while they steadily drain the country's wealth. It's a great scam and it's working very well for them.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The Constitution permits the Supreme Court be its final interpreter, even when their interpretations are clearly ridiculous to the common citizen.

        It does no such thing. The Court stated that it does in Marbury v. Madison and no one has ever bothered to call them on it. But nowhere does the Constitution explicitly permit this.

      • by Arker (91948)
        Citation needed.

        Article and Section numbers please.
  • Especially someone who would cheat a spy.

  • Overages (Score:5, Funny)

    by Oysterville (2944937) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:18PM (#46392381)
    They should have kept better track of their usage. They could have upgraded to a plan with more included wiretaps, or even considered one of the "Shared Family Wiretap" plans.
  • looks like they forgot to wiretap the folks at sprint
  • I love it! (Score:4, Funny)

    by reboot246 (623534) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:21PM (#46392403) Homepage
    I just love it when one crook accuses another crook of being crooked.

    As George Carlin would say, "Now THAT'S entertainment!"
    • by HalAtWork (926717)
      Yeah but in this case the crooks are not footing the bill, it's us taxpayers. :( Can't believe we pay to let those creeps spy on us.
  • The hell if they are going to gonna keep paying Sprint when they can just do it themselves... Oh wait...

  • Gee, this never would have happened if Bush won the election.

  • I'm not surprised (Score:4, Informative)

    by wjcofkc (964165) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:35PM (#46392513)
    As I currently battle my own Sprint bill, none of this surprises me. I'll bet the government didn't notice the enormous surcharges on their bill. I know someone who worked in their billing\customer service department. They said the level of billing abnormalities they saw was astonishing. This person had to give money to most people calling in about their bill while correcting things and promising it wouldn't happen again. When this person considered the millions who never looked at their bills and who were probably being sometimes overcharged, this person quit out of moral dilemma.

    The way they do billing is understandably complicated for many. If the government had just called in for a $21 million credit, they might have received it after an escalation or two.
    • by tchdab1 (164848)

      But that's the point of this article. The Gov. did notice the surcharges on its bill and wants them removed. I wonder how long they were on hold before they got to talk with someone who would listen to their story, review the bill, and make a plan to remove the charges or not.

      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        I could have been more clear. It's usually a situation where a person or entity does not immediately notice the excessive charges, then a bill comes along with obvious problems, prompting them to more closely look over past bills and say, "OMG!" Also, I was using surcharges in an analogous manner, I can't even begin to imagine what bills from Sprint to the government look like. In my comment, the person in question relayed stories where someone in that precise situation would call in after realizing they ha
    • They once added an extra 19% discount to my bill. Remarkably, after about four bills, they fixed the error without me having to call them.

      Ah well, it was nice while it lasted... and at least they never asked for the money back. That "billing errors in your favor" are honored was enough to keep me as a customer...

  • Illegal Illegals (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pubwvj (1045960) on Monday March 03, 2014 @07:49PM (#46392631)

    So the government is telling us that it is illegal to over charge for an illegal service provided. Hmm...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Performing corrupt profitmongering on the back of our illegal corrupt privacy invasions?
    The nerve of those monsters!

  • by niftymitch (1625721) on Monday March 03, 2014 @08:21PM (#46392845)

    Take the telco to court and in open court
    divulge ALL the demands made on the telco.

    The telco can open with an itemized list of all N
    secret wattents. Something like:
        FISA #1 wiretap on 50,000 unnamed individuals $1.00
                                knowing where to tap 50,000 unnamed individuals $5000000
        FISA #2 ......
        FISA #N .....
        Summary:
                                Total (N*$1)+Sum(KnowingWhereValues from 1..N)

  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday March 03, 2014 @08:28PM (#46392913)

    Maybe next time, the feds will wise up and get a month-to-month pay in advance eavesdropping plan and avoid bill shock.

  • by Otis B. Dilroy III (2110816) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:08PM (#46393175)
    Are they somehow expecting honor among thieves?
  • While I'm one to bitch about ever inflating costs for services, in this I find myself almost wholly on Sprint's side.
    If the government wants to push the costs of spying on people back onto the people they're spying upon FUCK THEM.
    I think Sprint should quadruple their charges for any and all government intelligence SIGINT services.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You realize that this ends badly for us, the taxpayers, right? It doesn't matter who wins, we still lose.

      Sprint wins and the government pays: our tax dollars go to Sprint and the government keeps spying on us.

      The government wins and Sprint can't overcharge them anymore: our tax dollars still go to Sprint, the government keeps spying on us, and Sprint likely passes on this cost to consumers in the guise of some bullshit fee.

      This is one big Catch 22.

      • by Chas (5144)

        Yes.

        But we were fucked once "government surveillance of citizens without warrants" was brought into the picture.

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