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Digital Inclusion

Federal Communications Commission Sets C-Band Auction Procedures, Reforms Inmate Calling Service Rates

Jericho Casper



Screenshot of the Federal Communications Commission August Open Meeting webcast

August 6, 2020 — The Federal Communications Commission established bidding procedures for a coming C-Band auction and moved to reform rates for inmate calling services during its August open meeting on Thursday.

Auction 107 will open additional C-Band spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band.

The motion initiated the agency’s second auction of mid-band spectrum, as it aims to push more spectrum into the commercial marketplace, building on efforts to implement its 5G FAST Plan.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the plan “critical to boosting economic growth, job creation and America’s global competitiveness.”

The commissioners voted in unanimous support of reforming rates and charges for inmate calling services.

As market forces do not operate over inmate calling rates, the FCC plays a critical role in ensuring these rates are reasonable and just.

“Costs are shocking,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, reporting that a 15-minute call can cost anywhere from $5 –25.

“It will cost virtually all families thousands a year just to talk to an incarcerated loved one for 30 minutes a few times a week,” said Starks.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said that current call rates put a strain on incarcerated individuals, their families and their children. Incarcerated individuals who have regular contact with family members and loved ones are more likely to succeed after release and have a lower re-offense rate, she added.

The legislation, which Rosenworcel said she regarded as overdue, was 17 years in the making.

Former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who has long championed communications justice for the incarcerated, expressed her hope that the measure would be passed, speaking in Broadband Breakfast’s “Champions of Broadband” series Wednesday.

Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, whose nomination to serve a third term on the agency was recently pulled by President Donald Trump, chose to pass on all of his opportunities to speak during the open meeting, instead submitting his comments to the record and appearing somewhat fearful to voice his opinions.

While no reason was given for the revocation of O’Rielly’s nomination, some have speculated that it was retaliation for how he voiced doubts about Trump’s executive order on social media.


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