Company Criticizes California Public Utilities Commission for Ignoring Its Own Staff and Instead Pursuing Arbitrary ‘Reforms’ That Will Harm the Interests of Incarcerated Consumers and their Families
Securus Technologies said today that it plans to appeal the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) proposed interim rules for Inmate Telecommunications Services (ITS), criticizing commission members for rejecting their own staff’s recommendation for more serious reforms.
“Securus Technologies is committed to sustainable regulatory reform that will make telecommunications services more affordable, accessible and accountable to the incarcerated consumers and their friends and family, who rely on these services to stay connected,” Securus CEO Dave Abel said.
“On a federal level we have embraced the Federal Communications Commission’s interim rulemaking on this topic, which isn’t perfect but is based on a thoughtful, data-driven approach. Rather than fight those new rules, we are committed to working with the FCC to further refine and improve them.
“On a state level we regretfully must oppose the California Public Utilities Commission’s proposed rulemaking. Ignoring the recommendations of its own staff, the Commission has offered an arbitrary proposal that would in fact harm the interests of the incarcerated consumers it is ostensibly designed to protect,” Mr. Abel said.
With many communities across the United States increasingly looking for affordable and innovative ways to provide modern technological tools to incarcerated individuals, Securus Technologies has been leading a multi-year corporate transformation to drive positive change in the correctional telecommunications industry underpinned by a thoughtful, data-driven reform process that equally prioritizes affordability, sustained innovation, and public safety. When regulatory proposals and structures fail to meet these standards, the company will oppose them to prevent intentional and inadvertent harm to incarcerated populations, public safety, and the communities we serve.
That is the case in California, where the CPUC issued an interim rule last week that unfortunately does not account for the real costs associated with providing high quality services, and instead places an arbitrary, unscientific rate cap on calls. This decision will ultimately harm incarcerated individuals by stifling innovation and lowering the quality of services while also further deepening holes in correctional budgets for rehabilitative services.
For these reasons, Securus is urging the CPUC to reverse course and adopt the interim rate caps established under a fairer process by the FCC, then engage all stakeholders in a fulsome effort to reduce call rates without threatening services to the incarcerated or putting public safety at risk. Securus will be filing a formal appeal with the CPUC with the sincere hope that we will advance a more collaborative approach moving forward.
The company released an open letter from its president and CEO Dave Abel to the Commission, which is excerpted below:
“The CPUC’s interim rule, issued last week, neither meets those standards nor accounts for the real costs associated with providing high quality services. Prior to issuance, we strongly encouraged the commission to follow its own staff’s recommendation: interim adoption of the FCC’s well-vetted, data-driven interim rate plan followed by a more detailed, California-specific review process to come up with a data-driven plan for state and local institutions. This approach would have provided immediate relief to consumers, balanced with sustainable investment that would allow counties and service providers to continue to innovate with products and services benefiting incarcerated consumers. Securus pledged to support that approach wholeheartedly.
“Inexplicably, CPUC commissioners chose to disregard their staff’s recommendation, ignoring both the FCC’s work and the previous admonitions of Gov. Newsom. Instead, they announced an arbitrary calculation that will result not only in a reduction in price, but in many institutions a reduction in service because the arbitrary pricing is below the cost of providing the basic service even with commissions removed. This will have meaningful unintended consequences and drain resources needed to cover real costs, to fuel innovation, and to supplement the funding needed by agencies.”
Throughout its transformation, Securus has thus far reduced the costs of calls by more than 30 percent, lowering its national call cost average to less than $0.15/minute. The company has integrated commission-free and agency-paid options for telephone calls and renegotiated more than 100 contracts with correctional agencies to adjust outlier rates.
For more information, see the full text of the open letter from Securus CEO Dave Abel to the California Public Utilities Commission at https://bit.ly/3BuuArG.