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FCC revisits inmate calling rates, approves increase

Amid lawsuits, the FCC votes to allow prisons to raise rates inmates pay for making phone calls from prisons and jails to ensure those rates cover the cost of the service.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
FCC commissioners

The FCC commissioners (left to right): Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, Tom Wheeler (chairman), Jessica Rosenworcel, and Michael O'Rielly.


The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday raised maximum rates phone companies can charge inmates for making phone calls.

Last year, the FCC set limits on rates phone companies could charge inmates making local and long-distance calls from prisons and jails. But companies providing phone services filed a lawsuit arguing the rates the FCC established were too low and didn't cover their costs. A federal court agreed to delay the implementation of the new rate limits.

Today's proposal was an attempt by the FCC to address these cost concerns, while also requiring jails and prisons to make inmate calling more affordable. Families of incarcerated inmates have been lobbying the FCC and other government officials to do something to lower rates for a decade.

Still, the commission's 3-2 vote was divided along party lines with the three Democrats voting in favor and the two Republicans voting against it, complaining the new rates still don't allow providers to cover their costs.