FCC votes to limit inmate phone call rates

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to limit inmate phone call rates – but set the cap at a higher level than it proposed last year.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the goal is to ensure “inmates and their families have access to robust telephone service at rates that are fair, just, and reasonable, while also allowing” providers and correctional facilities to recover their calling related costs…

FCC votes to let inmate phone companies charge higher rates

Facing a legal challenge from the inmate phone industry, the FCC today voted to raise the price cap on what companies can charge for calls from jails and prisons.

Companies selling calling services to inmates have long been accused of taking advantage of a captive group of “customers” with no other options. In 2013, the FCC made its first move to regulate the price of some calls, and voted to expand the caps to more calls in 2015.

But inmate phone companies sued to stop the implementation of new caps before they could take effect, and successfully won a court stay that temporarily blocked some rules. The companies argued that the caps had been set so low that they had effectively been regulated out of profitability. (Advocates for caps have firmly denied that’s the case.)…

FCC Tries Again to Cap Rates on Inmate Phone Calls

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted 3-2 to raise rate caps on prison inmate phone calls, marking a slight modification to a cap the FCC passed last year for phone and video calls to inmates.

A federal appeals court blocked that initial round of rate caps in March for intrastate and interstate calls, while leaving in place a previous interim cap on interstate calls.

Responding to a petition filed 13 years previously, the agency voted in October to cap the price of phone and video calls to individuals incarcerated in state or federal prisons and jails. Previous rates, enacted by private service providers that often enjoy monopolies at certain facilities, were deemed exorbitant, with friends and family members sometimes charged as much as $1 a minute to speak to their loved ones. “Site commission” costs — i.e., payments to the local sheriff’s office tacked onto each call — pushed prices even higher…

FCC raises inmate calling rates in shadow of court battle

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday raised the maximum rates that companies are allowed to charge inmates for phone calls as the agency’s previous attempt to cap those costs moves through the court system.

Last year, the commission set new limits on the per-minute cost of phone calls made in prisons or jails. The aim was to limit costs imposed on inmates by a few providers.
But those companies sued to stop the rules and, earlier this year, obtained a court-ordered delay of the new rates.
By raising the rates on Thursday, the commission can argue that it is making it easier for jails and prisons to afford the inmate-calling systems, potentially disarming one industry line of attack…

FCC revisits inmate calling rates, approves increase

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday raised maximum rates phone companies can charge inmates for making phone calls.

Last year, the FCC set limits on rates phone companies could charge inmates making local and long-distance calls from prisons and jails. But companies providing phone services filed a lawsuit arguing the rates the FCC established were too low and didn’t cover their costs. A federal court agreed to delay the implementation of the new rate limits.

Today’s proposal was an attempt by the FCC to address these cost concerns, while also requiring jails and prisons to make inmate calling more affordable. Families of incarcerated inmates have been lobbying the FCC and other government officials to do something to lower rates for a decade…

New Prison Rate Caps Could Help FCC Dump Court Challenge

Law360, Washington (August 2, 2016, 9:06 PM ET) — The Federal Communications Commission is hoping a vote Thursday to raise rate limits on inmate calling services will weaken a legal challenge filed by providers shortly after their 2015 approval, but success remains uncertain given lingering questions surrounding the agency’s authority and unwillingness to limit pay-to-play payments to facilities.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn have floated the change to rates set in October for a vote this week, proposing to increase an 11 cent-per-minute rate cap for prisons to 13 cents, and…

FCC’s August Docket

The agency will follow its momentous July vote on opening 5G spectrum with an August meeting focusing on rates of inmate call services, policies governing hearing-aid compatible mobile handsets and the evaluation of a program that provides low-income individuals with vision loss and/or hearing loss specialized equipment for phone and internet usage…

States Slam Bid To Pause FCC’s Inmate Call Rate Challenge

Law360, New York (August 1, 2016, 5:33 PM ET) — Nine states on Friday blasted the Federal Communications Commission’s request for the D.C. Circuit to hold on to a row over its mandated limits on rates for inmate calls, arguing that a pending vote on the rate caps won’t change their inherent illegality.

The FCC in July had asked the panel to pause the case, saying that at its next meeting, on Aug. 4, it could vote in rate caps higher than the 11-cent-per-minute cap for prisons and a range of 14 to 22 cents per minute in jails…

Prison phone rates too high in Lancaster County, advocates say; Officials cite contract

Lancaster County officials have no plans to reduce the 21-cents phone rate at the prison despite repeated calls from inmate advocates and recent moves by federal regulators to cap the charges. The county holds a contract with private vendor Securus Technologies through February 2018 to manage inmate telephone calls, and the rate is set in the agreement, officials said.