PSC proposes to cap inmate calling rates - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

PSC proposes to cap inmate calling rates

Posted: Updated:
HELENA -

The Montana Public Service Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to initiate a rulemaking to limit charges for phone calls between inmates and their families. 

"Some families are paying more for a few moments of contact with a loved one behind bars than they do cellphone services for an entire month," said Chairman Brad Johnson, R-East Helena. 

In a press release from the PSC, the Commission last month issued a notice, requesting comment on the maximum allowable rate charged for calls between places in Montana and local correctional facilities in the state. Many of those comments detailed frustration with the price and quality of service of the companies that provide telephone services in detention facilities. 

The Commission has the power to set maximum rates, or caps, for operator service providers. It is unlawful for such a provider to charge an "exorbitant rate," which the law defines as one above the Commission-determined rate cap. 

The proposed rulemaking mirrors per minute and ancillary service charge rate caps established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for interstate inmate calling. According to the PSC's notice, rates would be capped at $.25 per minute for collect calls and $.21 per minute for calls placed using a pre-paid phone card. 
The Commission's decision would not affect calls to or from the state prison in Deer Lodge, which are by contract capped at $0.14 per minute. 

Meanwhile, information obtained by the PSC suggests there is a wide variance between calling rates at different detention facilities. In some places, inmates or their families pay nearly $15 for a 15-minute phone call. Jails typically earn a commission off of the revenue earned by the companies providing inmate calling services.

"The price that inmates' families pay for these services should not exceed the cost of actually providing the service. That is how the PSC sets prices for monopolies in this state, and this is no exception," said Vice-chairman Travis Kavulla, R-Great Falls.  

In June, District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an FCC attempt to impose rate caps on intra-state calls, ruling that such decisions are within the purview of state utility commissions like the Montana PSC. Meanwhile, the FCC, which changed membership after the November elections, dropped its defense of its own rule.  

"The FCC and the judiciary kicked the ball into our court, and now it's up to us to pick it up and run with it," said Commissioner Tony O'Donnell, R-Billings. 

Interested parties will have until Sept. 18 to submit public comment. The PSC will hold a public hearing following the close of the comment period. 

  • Most Popular

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Special Edition Grizzly Sports Report: Bobby's Back

    Special Edition Grizzly Sports Report: Bobby's Back

    Monday, December 11 2017 11:04 PM EST2017-12-12 04:04:27 GMT
    New Griz Head Coach Bobby Hauck sits down with Shaun Rainey for a special edition of the Grizzly Sports Report to talk about his journey into the coaching ranks and being back at Montana for a second go around. 
    New Griz Head Coach Bobby Hauck sits down with Shaun Rainey for a special edition of the Grizzly Sports Report to talk about his journey into the coaching ranks and being back at Montana for a second go around. 
  • Sore mouth suspected in bighorn sheep

    Sore mouth suspected in bighorn sheep

    Monday, December 11 2017 11:51 PM EST2017-12-12 04:51:24 GMT

    Yellowstone National park officials confirmed on Monday that multiple bighorn rams have caught a viral disease that causes unsightly mouth sores.

    Yellowstone National park officials confirmed on Monday that multiple bighorn rams have caught a viral disease that causes unsightly mouth sores.

  • Higher car registration fees kick in next month in Montana

    Higher car registration fees kick in next month in Montana

    Monday, December 11 2017 6:23 PM EST2017-12-11 23:23:55 GMT

    BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - Car owners in Montana will pay a little more when it comes time to renew vehicle registrations next year.    The Montana Standard reports that starting Jan. 1, a new statewide administrative fee of 3 percent will be applied to all portions of registration costs except on the county option fee.    State lawmakers increased registration fees during the last legislative session in hopes of raising about $25 million over the next two years to fund t...

    BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - Car owners in Montana will pay a little more when it comes time to renew vehicle registrations next year.    The Montana Standard reports that starting Jan. 1, a new statewide administrative fee of 3 percent will be applied to all portions of registration costs except on the county option fee.    State lawmakers increased registration fees during the last legislative session in hopes of raising about $25 million over the next two years to fund t...

  • Woman reports assault by man she met on Plenty of Fish

    Woman reports assault by man she met on Plenty of Fish

    Tuesday, December 12 2017 3:32 PM EST2017-12-12 20:32:51 GMT
    MISSOULA- A man is charged with aggravated assault and a woman was severely injured after a date on Dec. 8. According to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, the woman, “Jane Doe,” met Andrew Hoskins, 41, through the dating site Plenty of Fish. On Dec. 8, she went over to Hoskins’ home. Jane Doe reports that they chatted for a while before Hoskins “snapped” and dragged Doe into his bedroom by her hair. She reports that he beat her, slamming her he...
    MISSOULA- A man is charged with aggravated assault and a woman was severely injured after a date on Dec. 8. According to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, the woman, “Jane Doe,” met Andrew Hoskins, 41, through the dating site Plenty of Fish. On Dec. 8, she went over to Hoskins’ home. Jane Doe reports that they chatted for a while before Hoskins “snapped” and dragged Doe into his bedroom by her hair. She reports that he beat her, slamming her he...
  • Petition in support of new UM football coach Bobby Hauck gains hundreds of signatures

    Petition in support of new UM football coach Bobby Hauck gains hundreds of signatures

    Monday, December 11 2017 11:57 PM EST2017-12-12 04:57:05 GMT

    A new petition is gaining traction in support of newly-hired University of Montana football coach Bobby Hauck.

    A new petition is gaining traction in support of newly-hired University of Montana football coach Bobby Hauck.

  • Missoula bar packed to raise money for detective's kidney transplant

    Missoula bar packed to raise money for detective's kidney transplant

    Tuesday, December 12 2017 1:33 AM EST2017-12-12 06:33:54 GMT

    People are gathering at the Thomas Meagher bar to support Missoula County Detective Lieutenant...

    People are gathering at the Thomas Meagher bar to support Missoula County Detective Lieutenant...

  • Court: 'Making a Murderer' defendant's confession stands

    Court: 'Making a Murderer' defendant's confession stands

    Friday, December 8 2017 4:09 PM EST2017-12-08 21:09:32 GMT

    CHICAGO (AP) - A federal appeals court has overturned a ruling that could have freed a Wisconsin inmate featured in the "Making a Murderer" series from prison.    The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that police properly obtained Brendan Dassey's confession and he should remain behind bars. The judges were sharply divided, voting 4 to 3 that Dassey's confession wasn't coerced.    Dassey was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 after he told d...

    CHICAGO (AP) - A federal appeals court has overturned a ruling that could have freed a Wisconsin inmate featured in the "Making a Murderer" series from prison.    The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that police properly obtained Brendan Dassey's confession and he should remain behind bars. The judges were sharply divided, voting 4 to 3 that Dassey's confession wasn't coerced.    Dassey was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 after he told d...

  • Fire destroys Butte building

    Fire destroys Butte building

    Tuesday, December 12 2017 4:08 PM EST2017-12-12 21:08:31 GMT

    The Butte Fire Department is responding to a structure fire at a business on Front Street. 

    The Butte Fire Department is responding to a structure fire at a business on Front Street. 

Powered by Frankly

Features

  • More Features
  • Powered by WorldNow
    All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 Cowles Montana Media. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.