Skip navigation

HRDC FCC comment on one-cent rate reductions - Sept 2015

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
Human Rights Defense Center



September 8, 2015

Submitted Online Only

The Honorable Tom Wheeler, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Re: Comment for WC Docket 12-375
Dear Chairman Wheeler:
The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) respectfully submits this comment for WC Docket
No. 12-375 to provide a new perspective on the many thousands of pieces of financial data that
have been entered on this Docket with respect to prison and jail phone services. Simply put, the
value of each $0.01/min. reduction in ICS rates resulting from action taken by the Commission
is worth significantly more than a penny to this nation’s prisoners and their families.
The California Technology Agency included 2010 call volume as Attachment 1 to Agreement
OPT 11-126805 for ICS. 1 See Exhibit 1. According to that data, 91,935,235 minutes of in-state
calls (not including local calls) were made from prisoners housed in California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) adult and juvenile facilities in 2010. Thus, each
$0.01/min. reduction in ICS rates would result in annual savings to CDCR prisoners and their
families of $919,352.35, or almost $1 million.
The Arizona Department of Corrections (AZ DOC) included 2013 call volume data in its
Solicitation No. ADOC14-00003887/14/066-24 for inmate calling services. 2 See Exhibit 2. Instate call volume from prisoners in the AZ DOC (not including local calls) totaled 12,892,932
minutes in 2013. Id. Reducing ICS rates by $0.01/min. would save AZ DOC prisoners and their
family members $128,929.32 per year.

1 at pp. 341342, attached as Exhibit 1 for the Commission’s convenience
2 at p. 17, attached as Exhibit 2 for the Commission’s convenience

P.O. Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Phone: 561-360-2523 Fax: 866-735-7136

Page |2
Census data updated in 2011 indicates that both California and Arizona experienced “significant
increases in the number of children living in poverty and the number of people living in deep
poverty. The Census defines people in deep poverty when they make 50% below the poverty
line, which is $23,050 for a family of four.” 3 Numerous filings on this Docket demonstrate that a
disproportionate number of prisoners and their families are poor. 4 The annual savings that would
result from each $0.01/minute reduction in ICS rates for prisoners’ families in California and
Arizona would be significant and, in some cases, would eliminate the need for hard choices to be
made between staying in touch with loved ones during critical times of incarceration and buying
food or paying rent and utilities.
Each $0.01/min. ICS rate reduction is just as significant to families in states with small prisoner
populations as it is to families with loved ones in the CDCR or AZ DOC. Prisoners in the South
Dakota DOC, which has a population of just 3,651, 5 placed in-state calls (excluding local calls)
totaling 3,962,119 minutes from April 2014 through March 2015. 6 See Exhibit 3. A reduction
in ICS rates of just one penny per minute is thus worth $39,621.19 annually to South Dakota
prisoners and their family members.
HRDC remains steadfast in our position that ICS rates should be capped at $.05/min. for all types
of calls, and we note at least eight state DOCs already charge ICS rates at or below that level. 7
ICS rates at CDCR prisons are $0.135/min. for all intrastate calls, and a reduction in ICS rates at
CDCR facilities to $0.05/min. (a reduction of $0.085 per minute) would result in annual savings
to California prisoners and their families of $7,814,495.
The AZ DOC charges a $2.00 connection fee + $.24/min. for prepaid/debit intrastate interLATA
calls, and a $2.40 connection fee + $.24/min. for collect interLATA calls. Prepaid/debit intrastate
intraLATA calls require a $1.60 connection fee + $0.24/min., and there is a $2.00 connection
fee for collect intraLATA calls + $0.20/min. 8 A rate reduction of $0.19/min. would bring current
intrastate interLATA per-minute rates down to $0.05/min. and save Arizona prisoners and their
families $2,449,657 annually, while reducing the intrastate intraLATA rates by $0.15/min. to
$0.05/min. would result in savings of $1,933,939.80. Although the combined annual savings
of $4,383,596.80 for intrastate calls to Arizona families would be huge, the elimination of the
connection fee required for each phone call is equally important. The AZ DOC tallied 974,799
intrastate calls during 2013 (not including local calls) (Exhibit 2). The total cost for connection
fees alone was just under $2 million ($1,999,281.60), paid by prisoners and their families, many
of them poor, for the “privilege” of then paying an additional intrastate rate of $0.20-.24/min.
For this reason, in addition to our position that ICS rates should be capped at $0.05/min. for all
types of calls, we renew our call for the Commission to abolish not only ICS connection fees but
all ancillary fees related to ICS, which serve as nothing more than another unjustified way to
price gouge prisoners and their families. Unless the issue of fees is addressed, any rate caps

3; the 2015 federal
poverty level for a family of four is $24,250. See
Also see, e.g., “Prisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned,” Prison Policy
Initiative (July 9, 2015);
5 (Table 2)
Pay Tel Communications, Inc. Notice of Ex Parte (Attachment 1), Docket WC 12-375 filed August 24, 2015,
relevant page attached as Exhibit 3 for the Commission’s convenience
Human Rights Defense Center Comment, Docket WC 12-375, filed July 29, 2015

Page |3
imposed by the FCC will be easily circumvented by ICS providers and correctional facilities, as
we have seen happen since the implementation of interstate ICS rate caps in February 2014.
We further call on the Commission to eliminate an industry practice of creating “flat rates” by
multiplying capped rates times the maximum number of minutes allowed for the call (i.e., a 15minute prepaid interstate ICS call rated at $0.21/min. is billed at a flat rate of $3.15, regardless of
the actual call duration). This practice, which has become more common since the FCC capped
interstate ICS rates, can result in extremely high effective rates when calls are required to be cut
short by either party. As the Commission is aware from the evidence in this record, dropped calls
through no fault of the prisoner or call recipient require double-payment of the flat rate when the
prisoner calls back. All parties to ICS calls should pay for actual call minutes used and nothing
more. These changes should go into effect within 60 days of the filing of the Commission’s next
Order that addresses ICS reforms.
Please feel free to contact me should you require any additional information.

Paul Wright
Executive Director, HRDC

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 3