FCC Sets Inmate Calling Services Rates

An October 4 National Association of Counties (NACo) news post announces that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will set limits on the rates charged to inmates making interstate telephone calls.  The rates apply to any state or local correctional facility that utilizes inmate calling services (ICS).  The post also indicates that the FCC is seeking further information regarding intrastate inmate calls.  From the post:

The order establishes an initial interim safe harbor rate of 12 cents per minute for debit and prepaid interstate ICS calls and 14 cents per minute for collect interstate ICS calls. The FCC also established an interim rate cap of 21 cents per minute for debit and prepaid interstate calls and 25 cents per minute for collect interstate calls. …

For intrastate calls (calls that start and end in the same state), the Commission is seeking additional information. In this order, the Commission “tentatively concludes” that: “competition and market forces have failed to ensure just, reasonable, and fair interstate ICS rates, and, for the same reasons, we [FCC] tentatively conclude that the same failure has occurred for intrastate ICS rates as well.”  The FCC seeks comment on this analysis; counties are urged to participate.

In addition to establishing safe harbor rates and interim rate caps, the order requires that interstate ICS rates must be cost-based. The order clarifies which costs may be considered in determining a “just, reasonable, and fair” rate.

The post also states that the rate limits and reporting requirements will become effective 90 after the order is published in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred.  NACo is urging affected counties to provide comments to NACo.  Comments should be sent to NACo Associate Legislative Director Yejin Jang at yjang@naco.org.  The FCC will also be accepting comments electronically but not until the government shutdown ends.