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HRDC FCC Reply Comment for Third FNPRM - Feb 2016

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Human Rights Defense Center

February 8, 2016

Submitted Online Only

The Honorable Tom Wheeler, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St. S.W.
Washington, DC 20554
Re: Reply to Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,
WC Docket 12-375
Dear Chairman Wheeler:
The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) appreciates the opportunity to submit this reply
concerning the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or the Commission) Third Further
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on WC Docket No. 12-375, with respect to Inmate Calling
Services (ICS).
They Just Don’t Get it
Not surprisingly, the ICS providers that filed comments on this Docket in response to the
Commission’s Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (3rd FNPRM) 1 do not support
the Commission’s continuing work to ensure that rates and fees for ICS and other advanced
technologies charged to prisoners and their families are fair, just and reasonable. Specifically,
Securus Technologies, Inc. (Securus) believes that “the additional measures now contemplated
[by the FCC] are simply excessive.” 2 Telmate, LLC (Telmate) opines that “the questions the
Commission presents in this FNPRM appear focused on expanding the heavy-handed price
regulation adopted in the previous ICS Orders.” 3 Pay Tel Communications, Inc. (Pay Tel) is
“disappointed” that the Commission “did not take any action to reform the site commission
payment system,” 4 while Global Tel*Link Corporation (GTL) recommends the Commission

Interstate Inmate Calling Services, Second Report and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,
30 FCC Rcd 12763 (2015).
Comments of Securus Technologies, Inc. on Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC Docket No.
12-375, January 19, 2016 at i.
Comments of Telmate, LLC, WC Docket No. 12-375, January 19, 2016 at 4.
Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. in Response to Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC
Docket No. 12-375, at i.

P.O. Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Phone: 561.360.2523 Fax: 866.735.7136

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delay the implementation of additional ICS rules “in light of the shaky foundation upon which
the Commission’s ICS policies currently rest,” 5 and CenturyLink “recommends against further
regulation at this time.” 6
Having reviewed the comments filed by these providers in response to the Commission’s 3rd
FNPRM, it is apparent that they just don’t get it. Or to quote Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get
a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” As the
record in this proceeding reflects, ICS providers have been allowed to prey upon prisoners and
their families for decades because the prison phone industry was almost entirely unregulated and
lacked any measure of transparency. Kickbacks negotiated with detention facilities were (and
sometimes remain) shrouded in secrecy, as were the rates and fees charged for calls made from
prisons and jails. ICS providers and corrections agencies conspired to take in as much money as
they could, which they did with great success, at the expense of prisoners and their families.
As this reply is being written, a 15-minute intrastate call through Securus from the Cowlitz
County Jail in Longview, Washington costs $12.94 ($4.09 connection charge + $0.59/min.).
(Attachment 1). The Cowlitz County jail currently houses 271 prisoners (Attachment 2) and
prisoner calls will cost $0.22/min. (based on the Commission’s analysis of confidential cost data)
after the FCC Order goes into effect in March 2016. Thus, in approximately 1.5 months, the very
same phone call will cost $3.30. Securus is and has always been aware that the rates they charge
for ICS phone calls are unfair, unjust and unreasonable; calls from the Cowlitz County Jail are
approximately 300% more than the “cost” of the call with room for profit, as calculated by the
FCC when determining the rate caps in the 3rd FNPRM. Three hundred percent. And this is in
the context that no one else in America is paying $0.22 per minute for telephone service.
Securus clearly has no problem continuing to price gouge prisoners and their families for every
rated minute until the bitter end. Yet after they lost the long-fought battle to retain their ability to
exploit consumers and there was a public outcry after more people became aware of what ICS
providers had been doing for decades, Securus executives had the nerve to infer (through an
improperly filed document on this Docket that violated ex parte rules) 7 that negative comments
and alleged “threats” (about which no independent evidence, such as a police report, exists)
concerning their business practices were the result of comments made by Commissioner
Clyburn. 8 GTL made the same claim (also through an improperly filed document that violated
the ex parte rules and with no supporting independent evidence) 9 the next day. 10 ICS providers
just don’t get that the situation in which they now find themselves is the direct result of their


Comments of Global Tel*Link Corporation on Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC Docket 12-375,
January 19, 2016 at 1-2.
Comments of CenturyLink, WC Docket 12-375, January 19, 2016 at 1.
DA 15-1341 – Notice of Prohibited Presentations in the Matter of Implementation of the Pay Telephone
Reclassification and Compensation Provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, et al. (WC Docket No. 12375), November 20, 2015.
Letter from Securus Technologies, Inc., WC Docket 12-375, October 26, 2015.
DA 15-1341 – Notice of Prohibited Presentations in the Matter of Implementation of the Pay Telephone
Reclassification and Compensation Provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, et al. (WC Docket No. 12375), November 20, 2015.
Letter from Global Tel*Link Corporation, WC Docket 12-375, October 27, 2015.

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own unscrupulous business practices, including price-gouging consumers for decades. They are
simply reaping what they have sown, yet ignore their own culpability.
The telecoms have been allowed to develop an ICS business model designed to entice greedy
corrections officials to give them monopoly contracts with the promise of large kickbacks, and
then saddled prisoners and their families with the expense. Now that the FCC has mandated fair,
just and reasonable phone rates, the ICS providers just don’t get that the Commission is not
responsible for fixing the ICS business model they created. Some ICS providers are still asking
the FCC to eliminate site commissions. 11 However, ICS providers created this monster by
inventing and then willingly participating in it, and after pocketing obscenely excessive profits
for years they cannot expect the Commission to get rid of it for them because the business model
is no longer as profitable if the rates charged for ICS are fair, just and reasonable. The capped
ICS rates still allow for profit, just not the obscene profits the providers are used to.
ICS providers just don’t get that the prison and jail phone industry has changed, and neither the
Commission nor consumers and their advocates are going to continue to simply believe the lies,
half-truths and obfuscations put forth by these companies. We read that “Telmate thus strongly
supports reforms that will rely on competition, not price regulation, to discipline the ICS
market,” 12 while at the same time Securus informs us that the ICS market “has been fiercely
competitive all along.” 13 Which is it?
They just don’t get that a “fiercely competitive” market that charges prisoners and their families
billions of dollars which are deposited into the bank accounts of privately-held, hedge fundowned companies and used to subsidize government agencies is not fair, just or reasonable.
Competition, if it exists, has not and will not discipline the ICS market if the market is left
unchecked. Market competition should benefit the end-using consumer; the ICS market does not,
as to this day ICS providers do not view prisoners or their family members as their customers –
only corrections agencies. If those agencies were the ones footing the bill and paying for ICS
services that might be appropriate, but they are not. Mostly, prisoners’ families are paying.
At least Pay Tel is honest enough to admit, in part, the proclivity of the ICS industry: “Even
failing that, additional regulatory actions must be taken in order to build upon the Second Inmate
Rate Order’s efforts and close loopholes that, currently, offer opportunities that certain ICS
providers will likely exploit if left as-is.” 14
They Do Get It
Conspicuously absent from substantive comment in response to the Commission’s 3rd FNPRM
are the local sheriffs and the National Sheriffs’ Association.15 The California State Sheriffs’
Association filed a brief letter urging the FCC to refrain from banning exclusive ICS contracts,

Comments of Telmate, LLC at 14; Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. at i, 1 and 3.
Comments of Telmate, LLC at 6.
Comments of Securus Technologies, Inc. at 2.
Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. at 1.
While the National Sheriffs’ Association filed a Reply Comment on Docket 12-375 on February 8, 2016, it lacked
any supporting documentation and can be described as self-serving at best.

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regulating video visitation and making any changes to international phone rates. 16 Notably, Los
Angeles County receives $15 million in annual ICS commission kickbacks. 17 In his filing, Los
Angeles Sheriff Jim McDonnell also supports maintaining the status quo with one ICS provider
under a monopoly contract. 18 He claims that video visitation and inmate email do not meet the
definition of ICS and should not be regulated by the Commission, and cites international calling
rates for 15-minute calls made from the LA County Jail at $5.00 for calls to Canada ($0.33/min.),
$8.00 for calls to Mexico ($0.53/min.) and $19.25 for calls to European and Asian countries
Prior to October 22, 2015, this docket was filled with filings from sheriffs across the country
speaking to costs that they couldn’t quantify and threatening to eliminate ICS altogether if they
weren’t allowed to continue to profit off the backs of prisoners and their families. With their
kickback money intact for now, they have little more to say. They do get it – literally.
A. Promoting Competition
As the Commission is aware, HRDC has long advocated for the elimination of monopoly
contracts in detention facilities, allowing the consumer to select the carrier most appropriate for
their circumstances. This is the only way true competition can exist. The ICS providers make a
point of telling us in this round of comments that multiple carriers cannot service the same
correctional facility, but they don’t consistently explain why. The reality is that none of the
existing ICS providers could exist in a truly competitive market where consumers select their
carriers based on cost and quality of service. They can only exist in the current artificiallyconstructed environment whereby monopoly contracts are awarded by government agencies
based on legal – and in at least some cases illegal – monetary kickbacks.
GTL informs us that “a single provider for ICS is the most cost-efficient and effective way to
maintain the safety and security measures unique to the correctional setting,” 19 but then adds,
“GTL is not aware of any instance in which there are multiple entities providing ICS or other
types of the same services within a single correctional facility.” 20 HRDC finds this statement
fascinating in addition to not being true. GTL, in fact, is one of four service providers that
provide money transfer services to prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IL DOC).
In addition to using GTL, money can be sent to IL DOC prisoners through JPay, Western Union
or MoneyGram. 21
As the bundling of ICS services with other services (such as video visitation, email, tablets,
money transfers, etc.) can make it difficult to ascertain the actual costs for each separate service,
HRDC is concerned that bundling in a single contract contributes to the lack of transparency and
accountability that is prevalent in the ICS industry, and advocates that such bundling of services
be restricted or banned.

Comment of California State Sheriffs’ Association Re: Second Report and Order and Third Further Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking, WC Docket No. 12-375, January 19, 2016.
Comment of Los Angeles County Sheriff Re: Docket No. 12-375, January 19, 2016.
Comments of Global Tel*Link Corporation at 10.
Id. at 11.
21 (Attachment 3).

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Securus says “The Commission should not believe that a multi-provider system would mean the
introduction of competition to the ICS Industry; it has been fiercely competitive all along” 22
(emphasis added). Given that the end-user consumer who pays the bill does not actively
participate in the ICS market and has no say in it, it is irrelevant to them whether there is
competition between providers. In fact, competition between providers is harmful to prisoners
and their families because in this context “competition” means which carrier will give the biggest
kickback to the detention facility in exchange for a monopoly contract, which generally results in
an increased kickback percentage (as corrections officials want to take in as much revenue as
possible) – and it is well documented that kickbacks artificially inflate the cost of phone calls
to the consumer. Market competition should have some benefit to the consumer; ICS market
competition as it exists today does not. To the contrary, it financially harms and victimizes the
end users of ICS services, who tend to be some of the poorest people in America.
Pay Tel recognizes this fact in its comment: “The ICS industry, however, is unique in that
the end-user consumer – for legitimate reasons relating to the security needs of confinement
facilities – does not have the ability to influence pricing decisions. As a result, under the special
circumstances here, regulation, unfortunately, is needed in order to promote a properly
functioning market and protect consumers.” 23 HRDC must, however, disagree with Pay Tel’s
assessment that our argument that consumers ought to be afforded choice when selecting
telecommunications providers in order to allow a free and competitive market is “misguided.” 24
Pay Tel supplements this characterization by noting that “ICS is a privilege and not a right,”
adding that prisoners “are not like the average person who gets to comparison shop around for
phone services at Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.” 25 Pay Tel fails to recognize that while ICS
calls are initiated by prisoners, the actual consumers in most cases are non-incarcerated family
members and friends who pay for the calls and are in fact able to comparison shop. There is no
legitimate technical or security reason why the consumers who pay the bills should not be able to
shop for the carrier that will let them communicate with their loved one in jail or prison. The
FCC effectively deregulated the phone industry in this country when it broke up the AT&T
monopoly on telephone services. It can do the same here.
It is remarkable to us that in this age of information technology, with increasingly sophisticated
IT capabilities, and in a country that has put men on the moon, ICS providers contend it is not
possible to introduce competition into the ICS market for end users by providing prisoners and
their families with choice as to the ICS provider they use.
B. Video Calling and other Advanced Inmate Communications Services
GTL believes “the Commission should encourage the development and distribution of new
products and technologies to inmates not stifle their innovation and deployment by unnecessarily
regulating or restricting them.” 26 HRDC respectfully requests that we take a moment to reflect
on the fact that the Commission did not “unnecessarily regulate or restrict” the ICS industry for

Comments of Securus Technologies, Inc. at 2.
Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. at 2.
Id. at 6.
Id. at 6-7.
Comments of Global Tel*Link Corporation at 4.

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decades, which resulted in insidious and unregulated price gouging by ICS providers, including
GTL, while no one was watching. Furthermore, we should all be clear that after the FCC took the
first steps to reign in what had become an out-of-control market by setting modest rate caps on
interstate calls, the ICS providers responded – as we would expect – by increasing unregulated
intrastate rates and ancillary fees to replace lost revenue. 27 History tells us that this particular
group of predatory hedge fund-owned service providers cannot be left unregulated.
We noted concerns with the digital divide and advanced technologies in our initial comment. 28
CenturyLink also points out that “Many parties communicating with inmates don’t have access to
a computer or high speed video connection.” 29 This is exactly why in-person visitation must not
be eliminated. Families without the financial resources required to connect through video visits
or other technology could be faced with the prospect of not being able to see their loved ones
during an entire period of incarceration. Pay Tel says that it “agrees with Prison Policy Initiative
that failure to regulate video services would lead to the elimination of both traditional telephone
ICS and in-person visitation.” 30 The Commission must regulate video visits and other emerging
technologies so they do not become the cash cow that ICS became; failure to do so could cut off
all communication for poor families during times of incarceration.
CenturyLink also believes that the Commission should not regulate video visitation because it is
in the early stages of development, and cites to “the Commission’s general preference to rely on
market forces, rather than regulatory intervention, wherever reasonably possible.” 31 It is
HRDC’s position that it is not reasonably possible to rely solely on ICS market forces – we know
what will happen based on what has happened in the past and ICS providers’ current comments.
Contrary to the positions of GTL and CenturyLink, Pay Tel and Verizon do a good job in their
comments filed on this Docket of explaining why the Commission must adopt policies regarding
the regulation of video visitation and other advanced communications technologies:


Pay Tel: “The Commission should regulate these services, including,
eventually, adopting rate caps and reforms to ancillary service charges, and it
has the authority to do so. The Commission ought to learn from its experience
with traditional ICS phone calling over the past fifteen years and recognize
that the ‘same perverse incentives’ that have harmed the traditional ICS
market exist and will infect the video visitation and other advanced ICS
markets if left unchecked. The Commission should regulate these services on
the front end and foreclose opportunities for service providers to gouge
consumers before exploitation using these services becomes standard
operating procedure.” 32

Interstate Inmate Calling Services, Second Report and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,
30 FCC Rcd 12763 (2015) at ¶ 2.
Human Rights Defense Center Comment in Response to Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC
Docket 12-375, January 19, 2016 at 6.
Comments of CenturyLink at 6.
Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. at 8.
Comments of CenturyLink at 8.
Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. at 8.

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Verizon: “[The Commission] should not allow the high rates that were
characteristic of ICS before the Second ICS Order and Third NPRM to return
through video communication and other services that newer technologies may
enable.” 33

As noted in our comment filed in response to the 3rd FNPRM, examples exist of low or
no-cost video visitation services for prisoners. Most of these examples are in countries
that do not have an ICS industry with a history of price gouging and financial collusion
with corrections agencies, including Ireland, India and the Philippines.
HM Prison Magilligan in Northern Ireland is just one example of a prison system that allows
prisoners to use Skype to contact their families.34 The fact that “when prisoners have strong
family support they’re in better shape for reintegration to family and community” knows no
national boundaries. According to David Eagleson, the Governor of Magilligan Prison, “we
launched Skype as a pilot scheme at the end of last year. Apart from the initial cost in installing
the equipment, it is free to use. The link is set up in a safe and secure environment for a prisoner
to make personal video calls to loved ones for up to 30 minutes each week. The suite is
completely sound-proof, but security cameras monitor the calls.” Id.
HRDC reiterates our position that video visitation services should be provided at no cost to
prisoners or their families, and should be funded by corrections agencies as part of their general
budgets – just as in-person visits are provided at no cost to prisoners’ family members.
C. Recurring Data Collection
ICS providers should be required to submit cost data in annual mandatory data collections for a
minimum of five years and the FCC should use its subpoena power to obtain this information. 35
GTL disagrees with this approach and tells us “There is no reason for the Commission to adopt a
recurring data collection requirement.” 36 As we are all aware, the record in this proceeding is
replete with reasons why the Commission should adopt a mandatory data collection requirement
and we will not spend time going over each one of them here. According to Securus, mandatory
data collection “seems more punitive than beneficial.” 37 HRDC finds it sadly ironic that Securus
objects to what they consider “punitive” treatment, but as a company they have had no trouble
subjecting prisoners and their families to punitive price gouging for decades.
Pay Tel supports mandatory data collection two years from the Order’s effective date, 38 but calls
for changes in format and instructions to make the process more meaningful and to provide more
useful data. HRDC supports all efforts to improve the mandatory data collection process, and to

Comments of Verizon at 2.
(Attachment 4).
Human Rights Defense Center Comment in Response to Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC
Docket 12-375, January 19, 2016 at 8.
Comments of Global Tel*Link Corporation at 12.
Comments of Securus Technologies, Inc. at 9.
Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. at 9.

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make it more reliable and to eliminate gamesmanship on behalf of some ICS providers. The data
should be made public to allow for greater transparency in the ICS industry.
CenturyLink “does not believe that the benefits of such submissions justify the costs.” 39 HRDC
reminds the Commission that it was only able to obtain any level of cost data in this proceeding
through a mandatory data collection; most ICS providers have not voluntarily provided their cost
data required for the FCC to ensure that ICS rates and fees are fair, just and reasonable. HRDC
believes that the economic and emotional costs to prisoners and their families that result from the
egregious business practices created when ICS providers are not required to submit their actual
cost data far outweigh this modest imposition on the telecoms. These supposedly high-tech
companies should not have such a difficult time quantifying their costs to the Commission. To
suggest that for-profit companies do not have their cost and profit data readily available defies
belief; certainly such data is available internally and to their investors.
D. Contract Filing Requirement
The comments of the ICS providers with respect to a contract filing requirement mirror their
feelings about recurring data collection: they don’t want to do it and don’t see any benefit. The
benefit, however, is to consumers and the organizations that advocate on their behalf. Prior to
2009 when HRDC began the tedious and time-consuming effort of collecting ICS contracts
through public records requests at the state and federal prison system levels, the data contained in
the contracts had never been made publicly available. Prison phone rate and fee data is critical to
prisoners and their families; many families must make choices between paying rent, buying
groceries, paying utility bills or being able to let children speak to an incarcerated parent. It was
only after HRDC publicly posted the data it had collected at considerable time and expense 40 that
the Commission, consumers and other advocacy organizations could begin to see how prisoners
and their families were being financially exploited.
There is still a deficit of data in the public realm about ICS contracts and kickbacks relative to
jails. While ICS providers have this information easily available to them, no one outside the
government has the ability or resources to obtain over 3,000 ICS contracts from all the jails
across the country. This when the National Sheriffs’ Association and its members come to the
FCC to complain about having their stream of ICS kickbacks impeded, though there is no real
information in the public record about just how large that stream of kickbacks actually is. This
lack of transparency must end.
GTL comments that the burden imposed on ICS providers to file their contracts with the FCC
“overwhelmingly outweighs any purpose or anticipated consumer benefit of such a requirement.” 41 GTL also states that the Commission concluded that the data and contract filing
requirement “serves no useful purpose commensurate with the costs of compliance.” 42 HRDC
submits that while that may have been a reasonable conclusion in 1980, it is not a reasonable
conclusion in 2016 given the systemic abuses in the prison phone industry over the last two

Comments of CenturyLink at 9.
Comments of Global Tel*Link Corporation at 5.
Id. at 7.

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decades. Securus writes, “The risk and burden that these rules would impose far outweighs any
possible public benefit of such superfluous disclosures,” and adds, “The entreaties of a few ICS
providers, which would seem to stem from competitive envy more than anything else, should not
persuade the Commission to overstep its jurisdictional bounds into these private contractual
arrangements.” 43
However, the cost of each ICS provider publicly posting all detention facility phone contracts,
along with kickback and rate data, would be minimal in every sense of that word. More so in the
context of telecom companies with massive revenues. They have hundreds of millions of dollars
to give to detention facilities as kickbacks in exchange for monopoly contracts but they claim not
to have the resources to publicly disseminate on a website the contracts, kickback data and rates
that allow them to generate those massive profits in the first place? For an informed democracy,
especially in small rural communities where many jails are located, this is realistically the only
way local citizens will know how their community is being financially exploited by both ICS
providers and their elected officials, and enable them to do something about it.
Setting aside the hypocrisy of Securus warning the FCC not to “overstep its jurisdictional bounds
into these private contractual arrangements” by requiring the public filing of ICS contracts, while
simultaneously asking the Commission to eliminate commission kickbacks from those private
contractual arrangements, we must insist that these contracts are not “superfluous disclosures.”
In many cases, the data contained in these contracts have not been available through any other
source. The contracts may well be the only future source available containing data regarding new
technologies that are not contemplated in the 3rd FNPRM. While Securus also contends that its
“bevy of active service contracts ... should be treated as a trade secret,” 44 utility contracts with
government agencies are not “trade secrets.” Nor is exploiting the public and bribing government
officials through kickbacks, legal or otherwise. The public is entitled to know the depth and
breadth of the financial exploitation of its poorest citizens and the greed of their elected officials.
Exploitation of the poor and legalized bribery of government officials is not, and can never be, a
“trade secret” despite Securus’ protestations to the contrary.
Pay Tel also opposes the filing of ICS contracts, explaining that “ICS contracts are public
documents, and they can be obtained through routine public records requests when necessary.” 45
While Pay Tel’s statement is factually correct in theory, and contracts between ICS providers
and detention facilities are public documents that should be accessible to consumers through
each state’s public records laws, ICS providers frustrate the disclosure of these contracts – which
typically include details about commission kickbacks – to prevent transparency of the terms
under which they contract with government agencies. For some states, such as Alabama and
Arizona, a personal representative of HRDC has had to physically go to the appropriate office
to obtain the contract information. In 2015, those agencies claimed they could not fax, e-mail
or photocopy and mail the ICS contracts.


Comments of Securus Technologies, Inc. at 3.
Id. at 10.
Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. at ii.

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In other cases public officials deliberately frustrate public records requests; for example, in 2009
the Alabama Sheriffs Association sent a letter to all sheriffs in the state, recommending that they
not respond to records requests submitted by the Southern Center for Human Rights. 46
The Pennsylvania DOC produced a heavily-redacted ICS contract with Securus in response to
a public records request made by HRDC in April 2015. 47 HRDC filed a formal appeal for the
unredacted contract and Securus intervened, seeking to prevent disclosure of the ICS records.
Securus’ actions demonstrate not only a lack of transparency but also intentional interference
with the production of documents under state public records laws, specifically ICS contracts. The
contract was ordered released by the Office of Open Records on August 12, 2015 with minimal
redactions, but the Pennsylvania DOC has not yet complied with the order. GTL intervened in
our public records suit, too, which we will address in a future filing on this Docket.
Seemingly to support our argument that government agencies often make it difficult to obtain
public records that should be disclosed, CenturyLink noted in its comment that “In a recent
procurement, ICE would not even provide access to the current rates in response to vendor
questions.” 48 HRDC has had the same problem. In April 2014 we were required to file a lawsuit
against the Department of Homeland Security/ICE as the direct result of its failure to produce an
unredacted copy of its contract for phone services executed with Talton Communications, Inc. 49
The case resolved on June 18, 2015 when the Honorable Marsha Pechman entered an order
granting HRDC’s motion for summary judgment and ordering the government to produce the
unredacted contract. (Attachment 5). While government documents “should” be produced under
public disclosure laws when properly requested, the reality is they are not. In this case, we were
required to spend the time to initiate legal action and follow it through to obtain a document the
telecoms are telling the Commission they shouldn’t have to post because people can get them
through public records requests.
As previously reported on this docket, this is not the first time HRDC has been required to take
legal action to obtain ICS contracts that “should” be readily available through public records
requests. When GTL and the Mississippi Department of Corrections refused to produce ICS
contracts and related records under the guise of a protective order, HRDC was forced to file a
lawsuit in order to obtain those records. 50 The case settled in May 2009 and the records were
finally produced. 51 Perhaps not coincidentally, it was Mississippi where former Department of
Corrections Commissioner Charles Epps pleaded guilty to taking bribes from, among others,
Sam Waggoner, a GTL consultant, in exchange for giving GTL the monopoly contract for ICS
services in the Mississippi DOC. The FCC cannot ignore the long legacy of corruption that
accompanies the lack of transparency in the ICS industry. Every step of this proceeding has
exposed the massive information deficit between ICS companies and the general public,
consumer advocates and the Commission itself.
Human Rights Defense Center Comment for WC Docket 12-375, July 14, 2015, Attachment 2.
Comments of CenturyLink at 11.
Prison Legal News v. U.S. DHS, U.S.D.C. Western District of Washington, Case No. 2:14-cv-00479-MJP.
Prison Legal News v. Mississippi Department of Corrections and Global Tel*Link Corporation, Hinds County,
Mississippi, Civil Action No. G2009-391 T/1.
Human Rights Defense Center Comment for WC Docket 12-375, July 14, 2015, Attachment 1.

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Sadly, detention facilities have shown themselves to be concerned only about maximizing their
own kickbacks and have totally abrogated their duties to the public and common decency on this
issue. The FCC must step in and do what the ICS industry and its detention facility collaborators
refuse to do: make public the means by which consumers have been price gouged for decades by
requiring the public posting of all ICS and video visitation contracts, including the rates charged
for such services and the kickbacks paid to obtain the monopoly contracts. The ICS industry
cannot have it both ways and claim it is technologically impossible to allow consumers to choose
their own phone service carrier and then claim the monopoly contracts and what they officially
pay in kickbacks to get them are “trade secrets.”
Further, HRDC supports the comment filed on this Docket by the Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF) on Jan. 19, 2016 with respect to the need for greater data security and privacy protections
for ICS customers. 52 It is imperative that the FCC not only investigate “whether Securus violated
any agency rules and/or the Communication Act’s protections,” but also establish better policies
governing the collection and storage of ICS calling records and the contents of those records. Id.
at 4-5. The recent leak of more than 70 million Securus ICS records is yet another example of
ICS industry “partners” not taking the true consumers – prisoners and their family members –
into consideration, in this case with respect to protection of their personal information.
In summary, ICS providers have much more in the way of financial resources to meet contract
filing requirements than prisoners’ families have to pay the exorbitant rates and fees that result
when the prison phone industry lacks transparency. ICS providers should be required to publicly
post all their contracts and related data on their websites within 30 days of execution.
E. International Calling Rates
HRDC continues to call for a two-pronged approach to international ICS calls:
1. After the Commission has reviewed sufficient cost data for international calls,
it should set rate caps for such calls that are fair, just and reasonable, as it did with
domestic ICS rates; and
2. As an interim measure, the rates for international calls should be capped at the
current rates charged by the ICS provider for ICE facilities, with no ancillary fees
or charges.
A comment made by Pay Tel is worth noting because it reflects a continued focus by ICS
providers on their business and not on the consumer market they serve (but fail to recognize):
“Pay Tel does not believe the Commission needs to address international rates at this time.
International calling represents a minimal percentage of calling in jails and prisons nationwide,
and just a fraction of Pay Tel’s aggregate minutes of use.” 53 An immigrant detainee being held
in a county jail who is unable to afford to contact her family in another country to obtain the
documents required to prove her case, or to be able to speak with her children, is not likely to

Comments of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, WC Docket 12-375, January 19, 2016 at 4.
Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. at 14.

P a g e  | 12 
care what percentage of Pay Tel’s aggregate minutes that critical phone call represents. The ICS
market is solely focused on the service providers and detention facilities, and totally disregards
the true consumers due to lack of industry regulation and transparency.
F. Third-party Financial Transaction Fees
Securus takes the most obvious position with respect to third-party transaction fees: “Finally, the
Commission should not attempt to regulate, let along prohibit, revenue-sharing arrangements
with third-party financial vendors.” 54 With Securus’ acquisition of JPay in 2015, any action
taken by the Commission to appropriately regulate third-party transaction fees would cut into
Securus’ profit margin.
Pay Tel supports the Commission’s prohibition of any ICS mark-up of fees assessed by third
parties, and both Pay Tel and CenturyLink request that the FCC monitor and apply rules with
regard to financial companies that are affiliated in some way with ICS providers:
Pay Tel: “On that note, the Commission must also monitor closely situations
where a ’third-party’ money transfer or payment processing company is affiliated
with an ICS provider (whether the ICS provider owns it, or the two companies
share the same parent company). For example, Securus owns JPay, Inc.; Global
Tel*Link owns Touch Pay; and the same parent company, Keefe Group, owns
ICSolutions and Access Corrections. JPay, Touch Pay, and Access Corrections
provide, among other things, payment processing services for unregulated
services such as trust fund and commissary payments. Fees assessed by such
affiliated companies for all practical purposes, end up in the same bucket as the
affiliated ICS providers’ revenues. They are not ’third parties’ in the way that
Western Union or Money Gram are.” 55
CenturyLink: “The Commission should also apply its rules so that a financial
company that is party to a revenue sharing agreement is not regarded as a third
party because of the financial arrangement it has with the ICS provider.” 56
HRDC fully supports the Commission’s decision not to allow additional fees or markups that
the ICS providers might impose on end users, and to require ICS providers to pass third-party
transaction fees to end users with no additional markups. 57
A competitive ICS market will only exist when the rate- and fee-paying consumer is allowed to
utilize the prison phone carrier of their choice through the existence of multiple service providers


Comments of Securus Technologies, Inc. at ii.
Comments of Pay Tel Communications, Inc. at 16.
Comments of CenturyLink at 13.
Interstate Inmate Calling Services, Second Report and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,
30 FCC Rcd 12763 (2015) at ¶ 324. Note that HRDC opposes the imposition of all ancillary ICS fees, including
third-party fees.

P a g e  | 13 
in detention facilities. If the Commission is persuaded by any of the ICS providers’ arguments to
the contrary, it should call for extensive further comment to explain why the technology exists to
provide prisoners with tablets that can access content and communicate outside prison walls, 58
but the technology does not exist to allow for multiple ICE providers within a facility.
HRDC continues to call on the Commission to implement the same comprehensive reforms for
prison video visit services as it has for the ICS industry. Video visitation should be provided at
no cost with no ancillary fees, considering it is a service that is free to non-incarcerated persons
(e.g., via Skype), and in-person visits at prisons and jails are free. Further, in-person visitation
should not be eliminated to increase the volume of video visits; prisoners being allowed to have
in-person visits to see their families during times of incarceration is just as important as being
able to talk with them on the phone.
Just as critical to comprehensive reform is transparency. The FCC should utilize its subpoena
power to uncover the true costs of ICS and advanced technology services. The disparity in the
form and details of the cost data produced by ICS providers pursuant to the Mandatory Data
Collection justifies why this measure is necessary. ICS providers and detention facilities were
allowed to create the perverse ICS business model because there was no transparency, and if left
unchecked will do the same with video visitation and other advanced technology services.
Last week’s filing on this Docket by Lee Petro, the attorney for the Wright Petitioners, citing “a
letter that was sent to correctional authorities urging governmental agencies to adopt mandatory
fees that would then be passed on to [ICS] consumers by the provider” in an effort to circumvent
the FCC’s Order when it goes into effect, is just additional justification for the critical need for
the Commission to require full transparency in the ICS industry. 59
The Commission has both the authority and responsibility to mandate fair, just and reasonable
costs for all aspects of the prisoner communications market, and we urge the immediate
implementation of such reforms. Prisoners and their families, especially those with children,
should not be required to suffer for decades while privately-held companies and corrections
agencies use them to generate profit, as was the case with ICS.
Comprehensive reform is needed now in the form of a robust response by the Commission to
existing and emerging issues in the ICS market, as set forth above and in our prior comments.
Respectfully submitted,

Paul Wright
Executive Director, HRDC

See, e.g.,
Wright Petitioners Ex Parte Submission – Further Developments in ICS Industry, WC Docket 12-375, February 4,

Limavady Chronicle - News - Magilligan prisoners using Skype to contac...

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The Causeway Coast's
leading local
newspaper. ABC

Mon, February 08, 2016











Magilligan prisoners using Skype to contact families


Thursday, 3 December 2015


INMATES in Magilligan Prison near
Limavady are being given access to
Skype for personal video calls to
family as part of a new rehabilitation
More than 70 approved prisoners
have access to the Skype audio
visual technology from inside the
prison, the first in the United Kingdom
to introduce the facility. Governor of
Magilligan David Eagleson explained
that the project could help with
Skype is now being made available to inmates
prisoners transitions after release.
at Magilligan Prison as part of a new
“The audio visual Skype link allows
rehabilitation project.
prisoners to make personal video
calls to loved ones. We know that
when prisoners have strong family support they're in better shape for reintegration to
family and community and we see this as an important part of the rehabilitation
“We launched Skype as a pilot scheme at the end of last year. Apart from the initial
cost in installing the equipment, it is free to use. The link is set up in a safe and
secure environment for a prisoner to make personal video calls to loved ones for up
to 30 minutes each week. The suite is completely sound-proof, but security cameras
monitor the calls."
The prison are planning to make the service available to more prisoners in future:
"The uptake among the prison population was slow to start but it is being used by
more and more prisoners, including foreign nationals, who are husbands and fathers
and those who wish to maintain a good relationship with their families. We are now
also planning to roll it out to more prisoners in the future."
“One of the most serious aspects of being in prison can be the sense of isolation
and even abandonment; and one of the most effective support that can be given to
prisoners is the assurance that they are not forgotten.
The project could also have positive effects for the prisoners families.
“Moreover, imprisonment may also have a devastating effect on the development of


2/8/2016 10:41 AM

Limavady Chronicle - News - Magilligan prisoners using Skype to contac...

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relationships between a child and father. Being able to interact in 'real time' with their
father, in their own home, helps children to understand he is engaged with their
lives, interested in their achievements, and is there to support them in times of
difficulty. This interaction also helps foster a sense of security, mitigate any negative
social and developmental aspects on the children, and ease the reintegration of the
father into the family home following release."

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2/8/2016 10:41 AM