STATE LEGISLATION AND PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION PROCEEDINGS FOCUSED ON ICS RATES & COMMISSIONS
Both Introduced 12/7/2016
Description: Resolves that the rates for ICS should not exceed the affordable modified rates adopted by the FCC.
Status: H.Con.Res.180: Open, referred to Committee on Energy and Commerce on 12/7/16; S.Con.Res.58: introduced in Senate on 12/7/16.
2. House Resolution 6441 (“Video Visitation in Prisons Act of 2016”)
Description: The proposed bill directs the FCC to implement regulations regarding video visitation service, and amend its regulations with respect to inmate calling services. By calling on the FCC to implement regulations, the bill seeks to ensure that regulations regarding video visitation service are consistent with the standard applied to “telecommunications carriers” under section 201 of the Act.
Status: Open, referred to Committee on Judiciary and Committee on Energy and Commerce on 12/06/16. Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on 12/22/16.
3. House Resolution 3638 (also known as the “Family Telephone Connection Protection Act of 2015”)
Description: The proposed bill seeks to amend the Communications Act of 1934. First, it seeks to add the term “ancillary fee”–defined as “any charge or fee that is imposed on a user of inmate telephone and video service in addition to the per-minute and connection charge.” The proposal also generally seeks the FCC to prescribe maximum uniform rate caps, require providers to offer both collect calling and debit account services, limit or prohibit the payment of commissions, require correctional institution administrators to permit more than one ICSP, and prohibit or substantially limit ancillary fees.
Status: Open, referred to House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on 10/2/2015.
1. Alabama Public Service Commission, Docket No. 15957
Description: The proposed amendment provides rate caps and limits consistent with new FCC regulations to ensure no preemption of the Alabama Public Service Commission’s regulation of intrastate ICS occurs. The amendment recommends adopting rate caps approved in the Second FCC Order effective March 17, 2016 at prisons and June 20, 2016 at jails. See Appendix A. For billed-collect ICS, the amendment recommends adoption of the rate caps approved in the Second FCC Order to the extent that the FCC rate caps are equal or below the rate caps for billed-collect ICS adopted in the Commission’s December 2014 Order. See Appendix A. The amendment also suggests revised intrastate rate caps for prepaid and billed-collect ICS. See Appendix B. Additionally, the proposed amendments also recommend that the usage portion for single payment calls be priced using the actual call duration multiplied by the applicable billed-collect rate cap rather than flat-rate usage. Finally, the amendments suggest a revised due date for 2016 reporting of April 29, 2016.
Status: At its most recent meeting on 3/8/2016, the AL PSC granted Securus’ request for stay and noted it would issue clarification relating to ICS rules in its order relating to Securus’ stay. The order has not been released yet.
3/1/2016: Notation of Adoption
Description: The proposed bill does away with language requiring that any money, refund, rebate, or commission received from a telephone company or pay telephone provider when the money, refund, rebate, or commission is attributable to the use of pay telephones that are primarily used by inmates while incarcerated to be placed in the inmate welfare fund in a county treasury, to be expended for the benefit, education, and welfare of the inmates confined within the jail.
Status: On 6/1/2016, the proposed bill was read a third time, passed, and ordered to the Assembly. On 6/2/2016, the proposed bill was read for the first time in the Assembly and held at desk.
Description: The proposed amendment requires that all proceeds from contracted telephone commissions be deposited in the “State-Operated Institutions Inmate Welfare Trust Fund.”
Description: The proposed bill prohibits the Department of Public Safety from receiving site commission payments from telephone service providers based on inmate phone calls. The proposed bill defines “site commissions” as “any form of monetary payment, in-kind payment, gift, exchange of services or goods, fee, technology allowance, or product that a provider of calling services or affiliate of a provider of calling services may pay, give, donate, or otherwise provide to (1) an entity that operates a correctional facility; (2) an entity which the provider of calling services enters into an agreement to provide calling services; (3) a governmental agency that oversees a correctional facility; (4) the state or county in which a correctional facility is located, or (5) an agent of any correctional facility.”
Status: Active, Committee on PSM deferred the measure on 2/16/2016.
Description: The proposed bill provides that any commissions or revenues for the provision of pay telephones in facilities operated by the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice for those incarcerated are prohibited. Further, the proposed bill also provides that the Department of Central Management Services must contract with the “qualified vendor who proposes the lowest per minute rate not exceeding 5 cents per minute for debit, prepaid, collect calls and who does not bill to any party any service charge or additional fee exceeding the per minute rate, including, but not limited to, any per call surcharge, account set up fee, bill statement fee, monthly account maintenance charge, or refund fee” as established by the FCC’s recent order on interstate inmate calling services. Finally, telephone services made available through a prepaid or collect call must be made available at reasonable rates not to exceed 25 cents per minute. All applicable amendments are to take effect January 1, 2017.
Status: Rule 19(a) / Re-referred to Rules Committee on 4/22/2016.
Description: Amends the Unified Code of Corrections. Provides that the State shall forgo any commissions or revenues for the provision of pay telephones in institutions and facilities of the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice for use by inmates. Provides that the Department of Central Management Services shall ensure that the telephone rates charged by vendors for the use of those telephones must be reduced to reflect this forgone State revenue.
Status: Rule 19(a) / Re-referred to Rules Committee on 3/27/2016.
1. Louisiana Public Service Commission, Docket No. R-32777
Description: The Louisiana Public Service Commission adopted Staff recommendations suggesting several amendments to current regulations, including: (1) eliminating tariff requirements for ICSPs to permit individual contract negotiations; (2) providing a transition period of one year for compliance; (3) adjusting rate and ancillary charge caps; and (4) restricting single-pay services. The amendment specifically provides that per-minute rate caps apply to all ICS calls without regard to LATA, mileage bands, time of day, whether the call is local or intrastate, and regardless to whom the call is made. As for intrastate calls, the proposed rate cap on the per-minute charge for collect calls is $0.30/MOU and the proposed rate cap on the per-minute charge for prepaid/debit or credit is $0.25/MOU. See “Attachment A.” The amendments also provide new maximum allowable ancillary charges, surcharges, and caps. See “Attachment B.”
Status: On 4/20/2016, the Commission voted to accept the Staff’s Final Recommendation as filed on January 15, 2016.
1/15/2016: Staff Final Recommendation
1. Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable, D.T.C. 11-16
Description: On 1/22/2016, the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable (the “Department”) took notice of the Second FCC Order and invited parties to participate in a one-day telephonic case status conference to discuss: (1) whether the elimination of per-call surcharge resolves all concerns regarding the just and reasonableness of the per-call surcharge rate; (2) whether the FCC’s establishment of specific taxes and ancillary charges with price caps sufficiently resolved all concerns regarding the service and other fees contained in ICS’ provider’s tariffs; (3) whether the FCC’s Order resolves concerns about dropped calls and other service quality issues; (4) whether the FCC’s Order resolves concerns about the adequacy of billing details; (5) whether any changes to the scope of the proceeding would moot any of the pending discovery requests; and (6) whether parties request the opportunity to brief on the effect of the FCC’s Order on the scope of the proceeding. On 2/4/2016, the Department scheduled a telephonic phone conference for Monday, February 26, 2016 at 2:00PM (EST).
Status: Open. On 3/18/2016, the Department asked the parties to prepare and file initial briefs on or before close of business on 4/15/2016 and reply briefs on or before close of business on 5/13/2016. On 3/28/2016, the Department granted Securus’ Motion for Extension filed on 3/23/2016, extending the deadline for filing and serving initial briefs to and including 4/25/2016 and the time for filing and serving reply briefs to and including 5/23/16. On 4/25/2016, PLS filed its Brief in Response to Hearing Officer’s Notice of March 18, 2016.
1/22/2016: Official Notice and Case Status Conference
2/4/2016: Case Status Conference Notice
Description: The proposed bill requires that all inmate telephone call commissions be paid to the Department of Corrections. The Department is authorized to maintain a bank account for the welfare of inmates, which shall be designated as the Inmate Welfare Fund. 25% of inmate telephone call commissions shall be used to purchase and maintain telecommunication equipment to be used by the department. Beginning July 1, 2008, 35% of the inmate telephone call commissions shall be deposited into the Prison Agricultural Enterprise Fund. 40% of the call commissions shall be deposited into the Inmate Welfare Fund. From and after July 1, 2017, the Department shall set a flat rate with its telephone service provider comparable to standard residential phone service for all local collect calls and long distance collect calls that are placed by inmates.
Status: Introduced in Mississippi House on 1/3/17; referred to Corrections on 1/3/17. Died in Committee on 1/31/17.
Description: The proposed House bills require the Department of Corrections to set a flat rate with its telephone service provider that is comparable to standard residential phone service for all local collect calls and long distance calls that are placed by inmates. Pending approval, the new law is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2016.
Description: The proposed law would permit inmates to call their children once per week without charge and spouse once per month without charge. The proposed law would require the toll-free calls to be at least 15 minutes. Any additional calls would be charged under rates and terms consistent with a facility’s general telephone use policy.
Status: Active, referred to Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee on 3/8/2016.
Description: This bill proposes to allow an inmate to speak on the phone with the inmate’s attorney without charge, subject to the policies adopted by the local government that operates or contracts for the lease or operation of a detention center.
Status: In First House – introduced 1/17/17; referred to committee on 1/17/17 (judiciary); first reading on 1/17/17 in judiciary committee. Hearing on 1/25/17. 3rd Reading Passed in House on 1/31/17. Transmitted to Senate on 1/31/17. First read in Senate on 2/1/17 and referred to Senate Judiciary committee on 2/1/17.
Description: The proposed bill requires state and county officials to contract with the qualified vendor who proposes the lowest per minute rate not exceeding the maximum rate allowed by the FCC for state prisons. Second, the maximum per minute rate for calls may not exceed the maximum rate allowed by the order of the FCC for out-of-state calls. Third, the bill also requires international calls to be made available at reasonable rates not to exceed 25 cents. Further, the proposed bill prohibits commissions at state, county, or private correctional facilities. Finally, the bill requires the Department of Corrections, the counties, and private correctional facilities to make available a prepaid or collect call system, or a combination of the two. Note this proposed bill is nearly identical to the bill that did not pass last session.
Status: Senate 1880: On 6/6/2016, the proposed bill was reported from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with Amendments, 2nd Reading. Assembly, No. 1419: Reported out of Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee with Amendments, 2nd Reading on 6/2/2016.
Description: As stated in the bills as introduced, all video visitation service contracts for inmates in state, county, or private correctional facilities shall be subject to the procurement provisions set forth in chapter 34 of Title 52 of the Revised Statutes and chapter 11 of Title 40A of the New Jersey statutes; provided the State Treasurer or appropriate person shall contract with a qualified vendor who charges a per minute rate for video visitation, including video visitation that is accessed by visitors from a location other than a correctional facility, that shall not exceed 11 cents per minute, is the lowest responsible bidder, and does not bill to any party any service charge or additional fee exceeding the per minute rate. A state, county, or private correctional facility shall not accept or receive a commission or impose a surcharge for video visitation usage by inmates in addition to the charges imposed by the video visitation service provider. A state, county, or private correctional facility shall not impose a charge for video visitation between an inmate and the inmate’s attorney, a rep. of the attorney, or member of clergy. The bill also requires correctional facilities to allow contact visits.
Status: A4389: On 12/12/16, the bill was introduced, referred to Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee; on 1/30/17, Reported and Referred to Assembly Appropriations Committee. S2896: Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on 1/9/17.
1. New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, Case No. 07-00316-UT, In the Matter of a Commission Inquiry into the Rates and Charges of Institutional Operator Service Providers
Description: In Securus’s motion for rehearing (filed on2/8/2016), Securus Technologies, Inc. (“Securus”) opposed the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission’s Order Opening Record issued on 1/27/2016. Securus argued that its rate caps should not be reconsidered because of previous approval of its various variance requests as required by the Commission’s rules. In doing so, Securus urged the Commission to consider the FCC 2015 Order to ensure that rates are consistent with its requirements, and that the Commission should do so prior to requiring Securus to provide “additional and costly” data.
The Staff issued its response to Securus’s Motion for Rehearing on 2/22/2016. It recommended that the Commission examine the impact of the FCC 2015 Order before requiring Securus to update all rate calculations using current data. The Staff appeared to defer the Commission’s previous order requiring it to draft a proposed rule by March 31, 2016, stating, “[I]t would conserve promote administrative convenience and economy, for not only the Commission and Staff, but also the Company, to defer any obligation imposed on Securus to update all rate calculations using current data until after the impact of the FCC 2015 Order is examined and appropriate rule amendments are considered.” Finally, the staff recommendation urged the Commission to continue with the aspect of the current case relating to Securus’s argument that the Amended Recommended Decision of the Hearing Examiner on Remand issued on March 18, 2011 unlawfully applies rate-of-return regulation.
On 2/29/2016, an Order was issued extending various deadlines relating to Securus’s Motion for Rehearing and Motion for Protective Order, including (1) Securus’s deadline to file information in response to the Order Reopening Record, and (2) Securus’s deadline to respond to Staff’s 4th Discovery Set. The Order also requires Securus and the Staff to file briefs with the Commission addressing the impact of the FCC 2015 Order upon the pending matter before March 28, 2016.
The Staff’s Response to Securus’s January 22, 2016 Motion for Protective Order stated that “[u]ntil appeals of the FCC 2015 Order are exhausted, the Commission should proceed with business and apply, implement and enforce its rules and act on the Recommended Decision relating to rates associated with space rents and calling cards.” The Staff also noted that the fourth set of discovery was “not propounded for the purpose of developing compliance with the FCC 2015 Order but for the purpose of developing evidence relating to rates associated with space rents and calling cards.”
Status: Active. On 3/7/2016, the Staff filed its response to Securus’s January 22, 2016 Motion for Protective Order. A status conference that was scheduled for 3/17/2016 was rescheduled for 3/22/2016 on 3/14/2016, but it is unclear what the results of the conference were. Most recently, on 3/24/2016, the Commission granted a Joint Motion to Vacate the Briefing Deadline (3/28/2016) filed by the Staff and Securus on 3/23/2016.
1/27/2016: Order Reopening Record
2/8/2016: Securus’s Motion for Rehearing
2/22/2016: Securus’s Motion for Protective Order
2. New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, Case No. 16-00068-UT, In the Matter of the Revision of Rule 17.11.28 NMAC Governing the Rates and Service of Institutional Operator Service Providers
Description: The Staff submitted filed a draft proposal intended to update rules relating to institutional operator service providers (IOSPs) that provide operator-assisted telecom services to inmates in correction facilities. The rulemaking is intended to harmonize commission rules with the most recent FCC order regarding institutional calling services and rates in several aspects including: tiered rate caps; the prohibition of single-call services; annual reporting and certification; no per-call connection charges; and no flat-rate calling. The Staff incorporated language from the rules promulgated by the FCC issued in November, including definitions and the rate caps tiered by ADP (average daily population) structure. The Staff also proposed revisions that “define and prohibit site commissions and other revenue-sharing practices, including space rent and prepaid calling card discounts” consistent with an earlier draft rule that was never given final approval by the PRC in Case 07-00316-UT. A recommended decision was issued in this case in November 2010, but the commission has not issued a final order as to whether there is a legitimate cost basis for the rates being charged by IOSPs that provide operator-assisted telecom services to inmates in correction facilities under contracts between the correctional authorities and IOSPs. The proposed rule is the result of the commission stating in a December 2015 ruling that conditions of fact had changed since the issuance of the recommended decision, making it necessary to refresh the record in the case–the commission soon after directing its staff to draft a proposed rule.
Status: On 3/30/2016, the Staff issued its Proposed Revisions Updating Commission Rule No. 17.11.28 NMAC Governing Institutional Operator Service Providers.
3/30/2016: Staff Proposed Revisions
Description: Proposed bill mandates that inmates be allowed to call their “loved ones” within 24 hours of arrival of arrival at a new facility, including weekends. Where the Department of Corrections believes security precautions prevent the inmate from doing so the bill directs the Department to “place a call to a person of the inmate’s choice.”
Status: On 4/4/2016, the bill passed the Assembly, was delivered to the Senate, and was referred to Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee.
Description: The bill adds language stating that “the department shall make every effort to reduce the rates of inmate phone calls and place a reasonable cap on the cost of outgoing calls.”
Status: On 4/8/2016, the bill was referred to Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee.
1. North Carolina Utilities Commission, Docket No. SC-62, SUB 5
Description: Verified Petition for Waiver of Rule R13-9(d)
Status: Open. On 12/1/16, Pay Tel Communications, Inc. filed a Verified Petition for Waiver of Rule R13-9(d). On 12/2/16 the NCUC filed an Order Requesting Comments. On 12/20/16, Pay Tel Communications, Inc. and the Public Staff filed a Stipulation reflecting settlement of all issues. On 1/17/17, Pay Tel filed Reply Comments in Support of its Verified Petition for Waiver of Rule requesting that the Commission waive Rule R13-9(d) of the Rules and Regulations of the NCUC, as applied to Pay Tel. On 1/25/17, the North Carolina Utilities Commission issued an order approving stipulation and granting waiver. The Commission finds and concludes that good cause exists to accept and approve Pay Tel’s stipulation. The Commission concludes that the rate that Pay Tel is authorized to charge for local automated collect station-to-station calls in North Carolina should be subject to a cap or maximum per minute calling rate of $.24, that such stipulated rate is just and reasonable, that Pay Tel’s request that the Commission waive the provisions of Commission Rule R13-9(d) as it applies to Pay Tel should be granted, and that Pay Tel’s new rate should be allowed to become effective as of February 1, 2017.
12/2/16: NCUC Order Requesting Comments:
2. North Carolina Utilities Commission, Docket No. SC-1427
Description: Verified Petition for Waiver of Rule R13-9(d).
Status: Open. On 8/30/2016, Securus filed a Verified Petition for Waiver of Rule R13-9(d). On 9/8/2016, the NCUC filed an Order Requesting Comments. Comments are due 10/19/2016. On 9/27/2016, the Public Staff filed a motion for extension of time requesting the Public Staff and other interested parties have until the close of business on 11/02/2016 to file comments and to grant Securus until 11/16/2016 to file reply comments. On 11/2/2016, the Public Staff filed a second motion for extension of time requesting the Commission grant the Public Staff and other interested parties a second extension until 11/16/2016 to file comments and to grant Securus until 11/30/2016 to file reply comments. The Commission issued an Order on 11/15/16 providing that the Chairman finds that good cause exists to extend the time to file initial comments from 11/02/16 to 11/16/16, and to file reply comments from 11/16/16 to 11/30/16. On 11/16/16, the Public Staff filed its Third Motion for Extension of Time requesting the Commission to extend the time to file comments from 11/16/16 to 11/23/16 and to file reply comments from 11/30/16 to 12/7/16. The Commission issued an Order on 11/16/16 extending the time to file initial comments from 11/16/16 to 11/23/16 and to file reply comments from 11/30/16 to 12/7/16. On 11/23/16, GTL’s comments were filed. On 11/23/16, Public Staff and Securus Technologies filed an Amended Stipulation. On 12/01/16, Securus filed an Affidavit in support of the agreement it reached with the Public Staff, as well as a response to the comments filed on 11/23/16 by GTL. On 1/11/17, the Commission granted Securus’ request that the current requirements of Rule R13-9(d) as applied to it be waived; Securus is authorized to charge a cap or maximum per minute calling rate of $.24 for local automated collect station-to-station calls in NC; the newly proposed stipulated rate should be allowed to become effective 1/1/17; and GTL’s request that any relief granted to Securus be extended to it and other ICS members of the industry is denied.
1. HB 185
Description: The bill modifies the private operation and management of intensive program prisons, and provides that “[n]o contract entered into under this section may require . . . a delegation of authority or responsibility of the public entity to a contractor for” . . . (6) “Contracting for local or long distance telephone services for inmates or receiving commissions from those services at a facility that is owned or operated under a contract with the department.”
Status: HB 185: introduced in the House 5/5/15; passed in House 2/10/16; introduced in Senate 2/11/16; passed Senate, as amended, 12/1/16. The bill Concurred in Senate amendments on 12/6/16 in the House. Effective 3/21/17.
2. Ohio Public Utilities Commission, Case No. 14-1554-TP-ORD
Description: Suggests amendment to Ohio Adm. Code 4901:1-6-22(A) to include language establishing that the maximum rate of any usage sensitive charge that may be applied by an inmate operator service (IOS) provider to any intrastate IOS call shall not exceed “twenty five cents per minute for collect calls, and twenty-one cents per minute for debit or pre-paid calls.”
Status: Open. Most recent action was a Service Notice filed on 1/26/2016.
1/7/2015: Request for Comments
Description: The proposed bill would add the following language to the existing statute: “No entity or agency of the Commonwealth or political subdivisions thereof shall receive commission payments from the companies that provide inmate telephone services.”
Status: Open, House: Left in Appropriations on 2/18/2016 (BILL FAILED), no longer pending since left in appropriations committee)
Description: The proposed legislation places various conditions on appropriations. It states that during the 2015-17 fiscal biennium, when contracts are established or renewed for offender pay phone and other telephone services provided to inmates, the department must select contractors primarily based on: “(1) the lowest rate charged to both the inmate and the person paying for the telephone call; and (2) the lowest commission rates paid to the department, while providing reasonable compensation to cover the costs of the department to provide the telephone services to inmates and provide sufficient revenues for the activities funded from the institutional welfare betterment account.”
Status: By resolution, returned to Senate Rules Committee for third reading on 3/10/2016.
Status: Signed by the House Speaker and Senate President. Delivered to the Washington Governor on 3/29/2016. On 4/18/2016, the Governor partially vetoed.