Company Outlines Vision for Providing Smart Devices to Every Incarcerated Individual, Lowering Costs Through Subscription Calling Plans, and Eliminating Site Commissions
Will Work with Regulators and Legislators to Ensure Correctional Agencies Have Funding to Protect Essential Programming
Securus Technologies announced today that it would support the Federal Communications Commission’s new order imposing interim rate caps and other requirements on telephone service for incarcerated individuals, foregoing appeal or opposition in favor of an unprecedented collaborative approach to regulation.
“We believe it is long overdue for our industry to stop fighting with reform-minded regulators and legislators,” said Securus CEO Dave Abel. “Instead, we need to adopt a more collaborative approach that balances the needs of the incarcerated individuals and their families who use and pay for our services and the corrections agencies that contract for them.”
Mr. Abel said that while the FCC’s order is not perfect, it presents an unprecedented opportunity to ensure consistency, simplicity, and transparency in pricing with flexibility to meet the needs of local communities. Moreover, it provides a bridge for the industry to move beyond pure telephone service to a much-needed, smart-tablet platform.
In that context, Securus has called upon regulators, legislators, correctional agencies, justice-involved families, and technology providers to engage in a collaborative effort to make technology more accessible and affordable. The company today announced a series of investments and commitments to support this effort:
- Ensuring Access to Smart Technology for Incarcerated People Across the Country. Securus is committed to putting simply priced digital tablets that operate like smartphones in the hands of every incarcerated individual, connecting them not only to their friends and family but to a universe of information that facilitates the fundamental right to education, prepare for and apply to in demand jobs, identify stable housing, and enroll in transition programs and other social services.
- Expanding a Subscription Model for Calling Plans: Under a Securus pilot program, subscription calling plans (which allow loved ones of incarcerated individuals to pay a monthly fee rather than per-minute charge) increased connection time for families by more than 27 percent while reducing their calling rates by 50 percent. But current FCC rules would prohibit subscription models in correctional institutions. Securus will be immediately filing for a waiver that would allow subscription plans to be offered at facilities served by the company, as advocates and justice-involved families have requested.
- Working With Regulators and Local Governments to Phase Out Site Commissions: Securus supports the elimination of site commissions to improve affordability for consumers. Commissions account for 33 percent of the out-of-pocket consumer call charges on average and can rise to more than 70 percent in some jurisdictions. Securus is offering commission-free models on all RFPs and is working with corrections agencies who have decided to reduce or phase out commissions. The company will pass the savings from elimination of calling commissions and reductions in taxes and fees directly through to the consumer. In the meantime, Securus will honor contractual commissions, continue to bid competitively for RFPs with commissions and work with others to find transparent and direct budgetary funding for agency customers reliant upon those funds for rehabilitative and developmental needs.
- Working Towards Data-Driven Caps on Call Rates and Other Charges: Securus supports the FCC imposing caps on calling rates, as well as the government fees and taxes that drive up operating costs for providers, and therefore increase prices for consumers. For example, the Universal Service Fee supports critical infrastructure needs but is disproportionately impacting low-income families and has nearly doubled over the past three years. This would be a helpful step towards providing greater fairness and consistency across jurisdictions and create a level playing field for technology providers. Securus funded an independent third party to look at existing data and recommended a model for establishing rates that would be affordable to consumers while still covering the costs of technology and operations. The company intends to work with the FCC and other stakeholders to develop a data-driven model for call rates that serves incarcerated people and protects public safety.
- Refraining from Appeals that Would Prevent Draft Rules from Going Into Effect: While there are components of the order that are cause for concern, the company has chosen to forego any appeal and instead work collaboratively with the FCC, state and local governments, consumers, facility customers, and other technology providers to improve upon the foundation provided in the published rules.
Dave Abel, CEO of Securus, said: “We believe that the rulemaking process currently being undertaken by the FCC has the potential to bring much needed transformation to correctional communications and the deployment of advanced technology to incarceration facilities. We commend FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for her leadership and being a driving force to making communications more affordable. Our organization wholeheartedly supports the effort to regulate and are committed to being active participants in this process as well as the final rulemaking. While we have concerns about some elements of the interim order, we believe the best path forward is to work with the FCC to further refine and modernize the regulations. We all share the goal of a correctional communications system that is affordable and contributes to a nation that is safer and more just – and we look forward to working together to move ever closer to that vision.”
In January 2020, Securus announced a multi-year corporate transformation, which has so far reduced the average cost of our calls to less than 15 cents per minute, integrated commission-free and agency-paid options for telephone calls, and renegotiated contracts with over 100 correctional agencies to drastically adjust call rates that previously exceeded national averages.
For more detail, see an open letter from Securus to the FCC at https://bit.ly/3C1y8TB