Federal regulators have lowered the rates on fees for out-of-state calls made from prisons and jails, Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) reported in June.
This was an “historic order” that indicated lower rates — which are different from fees — may be forthcoming. This will go along with new Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules for companies to follow that provide inmate-calling services in correctional institutions.
“The FCC’s newest order applies only to out-of-state calls, where the caller and called person are physically in different states, but not to in-state calls, where the caller and called person are physically in the same state,” PPI stated in a blog. “Importantly, the FCC says that companies must charge the out-of-state rate unless they know where the parties are physically located.”
Past rate structures applied by telephone service providers were primarily based on the area codes of originating and terminating telephone numbers. This, according to PPI, will no longer be allowed, so third-party services that provide phone numbers outside of called numbers’ area codes will not be advantageous in receiving better rates.
“These newly lowered caps are not in effect yet, and won’t be until 90 days after official publication,” PPI stated. When that happens, PPI said it will update its post regarding the publication of the rates.
PPI reported that family and friends of incarcerated people can expect rate caps. In prisons there is one exception: “Out-of-state calls will not cost more than 14¢ per minute…The exception is that the FCC is allowing companies to charge higher rates if a mandatory state statute or regulation requires a commission payment to the facility.” But total rate caps cannot exceed $0.21 per minute” under the FCC Order.
“For jails with an average daily population of 1,000 or more: With one exception, out-of-state calls will not cost more than $0.16 per minute. Previously, rates were capped at either 21¢ or 25¢ depending on whether the call was collect or debit. The exception is that the FCC is allowing companies to charge higher rates if a mandatory state statute or regulation requires a commission payment to the facility.” The FCC order, however, does not allow the total rate cap to exceed $0.21 per minute.
All other jails’ out-of-state calls will no longer cost more than 21¢ per minute. “When the new regulations take effect, collect calls and debit calls will both be capped at 21¢.”
All international calls from jail and prison will be capped at out-of-state rates, “plus the amount that the provider pays to an underlying wholesale carrier for the cost of the call,” PPI reported. “Prior to these rules, international calls were not subject to price caps.”
PPI reported that an exact cap on such international calls may be difficult to calculate “because the ‘underlying wholesale’ cost is not widely known.”
Single-call services from prisons and jails from service providers such as Text2ConnectTM and PayNowTM will be capped at $6.95 per call, plus any applicable per-minute rate. “We have previously found that companies were charging $9.99-14.99 for a single telephone call,” PPI stated. It added that third-party monetary transactions such as fees for MoneyGram payments and Western Union — which can be as high as $9.99 — will have a cap of $6.90 per transactions.