CPUC Denies ICS Provider Challenges to 7 Cent Interim Rate Cap

Consumer groups cheered the California Public Utilities Commission for denying rehearing petitions by prison phone providers of the agency’s August decision to set an interim 7 cents-per-minute intrastate rate cap for incarcerated persons communications services (IPCS) and to eliminate some fees. Securus and NCIC Inmate Communications separately challenged the CPUC decision in September.

Securus said the PUC decision in docket R.20-10-002 was legally and factually flawed and undermined the commission’s goal of providing affordable IPCS services (see 2109230035). NCIC the same month said its costs could exceed revenue under the order and argued the cap shouldn’t apply to any facility with fewer than 1,000 average daily population (see 2109210080).

Even without using a contract between Global Tel*Link and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as a benchmark, the interim rate cap “is based on substantial evidence,” said the CPUC’s final decision released Monday. “The evidence in the record shows that a $0.05 per minute rate is feasible to achieve in jails and, overall, there is a downward trend in rates across both California and the US.” Prison Policy Institute thinks “the CPUC made the right decision,” emailed General Counsel Stephen Raher.

“The best thing for parties, consumers, and correctional facilities is to move forward with the next phase of this proceeding. There is plenty of work remaining to be done, and we will continue to press for rate justice for all types of correctional telecommunications services.” Securus and NCIC rehearing applications “were a transparent attempt to delay the Commission’s action so that IPCS providers could continue to gouge incarcerated people and their families and support networks,” emailed Paul Goodman, Center for Accessible Technology (CforAT) legal counsel.

“The Commission properly found that the providers could not refuse to turn over information about their actual costs of providing service, and then argue that the ample evidence provided by other parties about the costs of providing service were insufficiently reliable.” The Utility Reform Network Managing Director-Telecom Brenda Villanueva emailed that the CPUC’s decision was “supported in the record despite the claims asserted. Parties had repeated and ample opportunities to weigh in and provide data.” NCIC CEO Bill Pope is disappointed that the CPUC “disregarded a decade’s worth of the FCC’s work, including data collected, conducting actual cost analyses” and workshops with incarcerated people’s communications providers and organizations managing correctional facilities, he emailed. Securus didn’t comment.

Reprinted with permission of Warren Communications News, Inc. and Communications Daily, 800-771-9202, https://warren-news.com/ and https://communicationsdaily.com/