Yesterday, at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Annual meeting, the Committee on Telecommunications hosted a panel called,“Is it Fair for Families to Pay Exorbitant Rates to Call Incarcerated Relatives?” The panel, which was moderated by Commissioner Anne Boyle of Nebraska, featured several key speakers, including:
- Jason Marks, Commissioner, New Mexico
- Lee G. Petro, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
- Jeff Lanning, CenturyLink
- Gary Maynard, Secretary, Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services
I was fortunate to be in the audience, and was able to Live Tweet much of the presentation. For folks who are interested, check out the #NARUCAnnual and #phonejustice hashtags, which captures some of the questions and arguments raised by both sides of the debate.Over the course of one-hour, the panel explored the exclusive contracts between detention facilities and the providers of telecommunications services, which result in exorbitant costs. Audience members—including NARUCs Telecommunications Committee members—heard from panelists about the expensive burden these calls place on the friends and family of the incarcerated individuals, as well as the chilling effect it has on their ability maintain contact.
Following a question and answer period—the question of whether to support the resolution was called. In a vote of 12-2, the Committee on Telecommunications approved the resolution. Today, the chair of the committee will present the resolution to the Board of Directors of NARUC for an official vote. We’ll be watching to see what happens and will report the decision as soon as it’s official.