Yesterday, the Board of Directors of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) adopted a resolution asking the FCC to address the high costs of prison phone calls at their annual meeting in Baltimore. The vote–which formally adopts the resolution–comes one day after the Telcom Committee endorsed the resolution in a vote of 12-2, after hosting a panel on the issue and formally introducing the resolution titled, “Is it Fair for Families to Pay Exorbitant Rates to Call Incarcerated Relatives?”
Led by Commissioner Anne Boyle of Nebraska, the resolution calls for the FCC “to take immediate action on the “Wright Petition” by prohibiting unreasonable rates and charges for inmate telephone services” and encourages States to “take action within their power to reduce or eliminate excessive inmate telephone service rates.”
The adoption of the resolution comes one day before a National Rally for Strong Families and Safe Communities led by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice at the FCC. Campaign leaders planned the rally as a way to demonstrate bi-partisan and multi-sector support for this issue, highlight the voices of impacted family members, and urge the FCC to move forward with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
Commissioner Jason Marks of New Mexico, one of the panelists and a leader on the issue, had this to say about yesterday’s vote,
”For too long, we’ve allowed some of the most economically vulnerable families in our communities to be put in the position of choosing between remaining in contact with an incarcerated relative or paying for food, shelter, and other essentials. Regulating prison phone services and all the associated surcharges, which are look like monopolies from the consumers’ perspective, is ‘regulation 101.’ I’m pleased to be part of moving this along, both in New Mexico, and nationally.”
As many know, the FCC has struggled with this proceeding for years. In fact, the Wright Petition has been pending at the FCC since 2003—a fact that has not gone unnoticed in social justice and media justice organizing circles as families are forced to choose between a phone call and basic necessitites and corporations make billions!