FCC bid to cut prison phone rates faces Republican opposition

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The aide said that Pai floated his own alternative proposal for reducing phone rates that would have been simpler to implement. 

"He does think action is needed and is disappointed we weren't able to reach consensus," the aide said.

Reducing prison phone rates is a top priority for Clyburn during her tenure as chairwoman. She and civil rights groups argue that exorbitant calling rates hurt families and increase the likelihood that inmates will commit new offenses.

“For too long, the high cost of long-distance calls from prisoners to their loved ones across state lines has chronically impacted parents and children, especially among low-income families," Clyburn said in a statement last week. "Multiple studies have shown that meaningful contact beyond prison walls can make a real difference in maintaining community ties, promoting rehabilitation, and reducing recidivism."

Prisons request bids from telephone companies to provide service and require each bid to include a fee to the prison. Critics argue the system encourages price-gouging.

A single hour-long phone call can cost as much as $60, according to civil rights groups, who have been pushing the FCC to reform the system for more than a decade.  

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