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Dutch ISPs sue government for wiretapping costs

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A large group of ISPs and telecom operators in the Netherlands is to sue the Dutch Government for the cost of installing wiretaps.

Wiretapping is required by the Dutch Telecommunication Act of 1998. The Dutch Government insists that it is normal for ISPs and telecom operators to pay the costs for general law enforcement.

However, the internet providers and telcos - including Xs4all, KPN Telecom, Casema, @Home, Wanadoo, T-Mobile, Telfort, Vodafone and Orange - strongly disagree. ISP Xs4all, for instance, invested over € 500,000 - a significant slice of its profits - to comply with the requirements of the law.

More importantly, as of 1 April the Dutch Government unilaterally lowered the reimbursement for wiretapping orders to just € 13 per tap. An additional hourly compensation rate proposed by Dutch minister of economic affairs Laurens Jan Brinkhorst is €26.25. That covers the administrative and not the operational costs, the ISPs argue.

In March Xs4all already said it would sue the Dutch Government over its refusal to pay the costs, claiming that in other European countries, such as Italy, Finland, France and the UK, internet providers are already fully reimbursed for the expense of installing wiretaps. In the past, Dutch ISPs could bill the authorities for the actual costs incurred.

An even greater financial threat is the introduction of general traffic data retention. The EU is proposing legislation that would oblige telecom providers and ISPs to save all traffic data on internet and phone usage for a period of one to three years.®

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