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PLN comment to FCC re ICS corruption Sept 2008

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Dedicated to Protecting Human Rights

2400 NW 80th Street #148, Seattle WA 98117 — 206-246-1022 fax: 1-866-735-7136
Please Reply to Tennessee Office:

September 21, 2008
Direct Dial: 615-495-6568
5341 Mt. View Rd. #130
Antioch, TN 37013


Ms. Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

RE: Supplement to Previous Comment Regarding CC Docket No. 96-128
(Implementation of Pay Telephone Reclassification and Compensation
Provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996)
Dear Ms. Dortch:
This correspondence is to supplement comments submitted to the FCC by Prison Legal
News on April 19, 2007, concerning CC Docket No. 96-128 (the Wright petition). I serve as the
associate editor for PLN, which is a non-profit, nationally-distributed publication that reports on
criminal justice and corrections-related issues, including prison phones services.
On pages 5 and 6 of our earlier comments we described various examples of corruption,
abuses and lack of accountability in the prison telecommunications industry, which indicated a
need for regulation of prison phone service providers by the FCC since current regulatory means
have proven to be ineffective. We now supplement our compilation of abuses with the following
recent developments, which reflect a continuing need for intervention by the FCC:
1. Pursuant to a December 13, 2007 settlement between AT&T and the Washington
Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), AT&T agreed to pay $302,705 in fines as a
result of overcharges on collect phone calls made from two Washington state prisons in 2005.
The UTC determined that Zero Plus Dialing, a billing agent for AT&T, was charging $.89 per
minute plus a $3.95 connection fee and a $.47 prison surcharge – which resulted in a charge
of $22.22 for a 20-minute call. This was in violation of a state statute (RCW 80.36.130). From
March to June 2005, the UTC determined that 29,971 prison phone calls had resulted in overcharges. Source: Washington UTC, Docket No. UT-060962.

Secretary Marlene H. Dortch
Sept. 21, 2008
Page 2

2. The Florida Public Service Commission has found that TCG Public Communications
(TCG), a subsidiary of Global Tel*Link which provides phone services at Dade County jails, had
improperly disconnected phone calls from 2001 to 2007. The Commission has recommended that
TCG refund almost $6.3 million to consumers and pay more than $1.25 million in fines (this is an
ongoing and active case). The disconnected calls were erroneously identified as disallowed 3-way
calls and thus were terminated – resulting in consumers having to pay re-connect charges for callbacks. The Commission found that “TCG knew about this problem, but did not correct it during
the period in question. On the contrary, TCG continued to profit from these unjustified charges
over a period of approximately seven years.” Source: Commission Docket No. 060614-TC.

The two supplemental incidents described above evidence that abuses by prison phone
service providers are not relegated to the past; rather, they continue in full force. Further, note
that the misconduct by prison phone companies cited in PLN’s previous comments, and in this
correspondence, are only those that are publicly known.
Some may consider such examples to be an indication that no additional regulation is
necessary, since public utility commissions are reining in prison phone companies. However,
consider that there is no uniformity among the states in regard to public utility actions involving
prison phone service providers. The public utility commissions in some states are more attentive
to exorbitant rates, overcharges and other abuses by prison telecommunication companies (e.g.,
in California, Florida and Washington state), while others are not. This lack of uniformity means
that citizens in different states receive disparate regulation of prison phone service providers and
unequal remedies for their abuses. Regulation by the FCC would provide uniform requirements
and rules that would benefit consumers of prison phone services on a national level. This is of
particular importance for interstate phone calls made from prisons, which are within the FCC’s
province and clearly subject to federal jurisdiction and regulation.
Based upon the above information and the reasons cited in our prior comments, PLN
urges the FCC to grant the remedies outlined in the Wright petition pursuant to the authority
granted under 47 U.S.C. § 201(b). Thank you for your continued time and attention;


Alex Friedmann
Associate Editor, PLN
cc: Paul Wright, PLN Editor