Today, Public Knowledge joined the Office of Communications of the United Church of Christ (OC Inc.) in filing a petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider the agency’s Order on interim rates for interstate inmate calling services.
The FCC passed its Third Report and Order on Rates for Interstate Inmate Calling Service on May 24, 2021. The Order, effective October 26, 2021, take several steps on an interim basis towards phone rate reform for incarcerated people, including: eliminating a separate rate cap for collect calling; lowering the interim interstate rate caps to $0.12 for prisons and $0.14 for jails with an average daily population of 1000 or more; and reforming site commission payments to permit recovery only of the portions of such payments related specifically to calling services and requiring them to be separately listed on bills.
Our Petition for Reconsideration supports the goals of the Order but calls on the FCC to further lower the interstate rate cap on inmate calling services during the interim period between the current action and final action in the proceeding. The rate currently allows the providers of calling services to recover the costs of providing some services twice by imposing the costs of providing the service both on the users who actually use those services and again on other ratepayers who do not use the service at all.
The following can be attributed to Al Kramer, Senior Fellow at Public Knowledge:
“Communication between incarcerated persons and their loved ones is a vital tool in rehabilitation and re-entry. The Commission should ensure these any fees charged for this stay within legally permissible bounds. While the Commission’s actions in this Order are interim, this span of time can potentially extend for months or even years. In the meantime, the high costs of communications services impose an enormous burden on the families of the incarcerated, many of whom are low-income.
“The FCC has never before allowed state or local bodies to add charges to the interstate rates it has already determined provide adequate compensation to carriers. It should not allow those carriers to be paid twice for some of those same services, at times charging people for services they don’t even use. Moreover, there is little prospect that many of these prisoners and their families will ever be compensated for these unlawful and exploitative practices.”
You can read the Petition for Reconsideration here.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.