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FCC has questions on prison phone service fees, PPI has answers

by Leah Sakala, July 8, 2013

Now that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is thinking about how to regulate the predatory prison phone industry, the commissioners are asking for lots of information to guide their deliberations. Most recently, the Commission asked for more data on the many fees associated with prison telephone service.

It’s great that the FCC is looking into these fees because, as we found in our latest report, they’re a really big deal. Nationally, we estimate that 38 cents of every dollar spent on prison phone calls goes right to fee revenue for the phone service corporations.

Given how profitable these fees are in the prison phone industry, I shouldn’t be surprised that the phone companies have so far been totally unwilling to share information about their fees with the FCC. (If you ask me, that lack of response is yet another reason why the FCC should act without further delay.)

Fortunately, however, we’ve given the FCC a lot to work with. Our 28-page report, Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry, documents the many fees associated with prison phone service, and explains how exactly prison phone companies justify the charges. We documented our report’s 120 footnotes with 54 exhibits containing 1,225 pages of the industry’s own documents. We submitted all of that in to the FCC’s docket record in May.

In response to the FCC’s call for information on fees, on Friday we submitted a letter to the FCC, drawing their attention to several tables in our report containing extensive information on charges such as deposit fees, refund fees, and account maintenance fees. We also attached an exhibit that’s particularly relevant to the FCC’s question, Exhibit 48, which presents a chart of the account fees charged by 10 of the companies in the prison and jail telephone industry. Our exhibit includes the “justifications” for each fee in the companies’ own words.

Hopefully our submission will inspire the phone corporations to offer up some data of their own.

2 Responses

  1. Gloria Mayo says, 1 day, 22 hours after publication:

    My son is incarcerated here in Maine for breaking probation and this will be until a bed is found in treatment center….Unfortunately funds were drastically cut for this and none are available. I am commenting because I have no way to contact him during this time and the contract the jail has requires me to pay $148.00 for a limited number of calls. I am on unemployment and only two weeks left to go. Any advice would be appreciated!

    1. Leah Sakala says, 2 days, 23 hours after publication:

      That’s outrageous and I hope that your son’s situation is resolved soon. Do you know which telephone company is asking for $148 upfront? If you do, I’d like to look into this more. Thanks for posting.

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