FCC pushes states on prison calling rates

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is pressuring state governments to make it more affordable for prisoners to make phone calls.

“The FCC has both the duty and the authority to act … if the states do not or cannot,” Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said during an agency workshop on inmate calling on Wednesday.

Last year, then-Acting Chairwoman Clyburn took steps to bring down the price of interstate calling for prisoners, including setting a temporary interstate rate cap.

Now the FCC has it’s eyes set on making that interstate rate cap permanent, addressing ancillary fees and bringing down calling prices for in-state calls, Clyburn and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said.

“We have more work to do,” Clyburn said Wednesday, pointing to recently-passed regulation regarding inmate calling in Alabama.

“Alabama is the exception, not the norm,” she continued. “The call [for intra-state reform] has gone largely unanswered.”

She pushed states to adopt rate caps for in-state prison calls and said she hopes it doesn’t come to FCC intervention.

Wheeler — who praised Clyburn for having “pulled this issue out of purgatory” at the FCC — echoed Clyburn’s calls.

"We reocgnize that more needs to be done," he said.