Company Asks Court to Require CPUC to Reconsider Its 2021 Interim Rate Order

Securus Technologies has submitted an appeal of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) 2021 Interim Rate Order for Incarcerated Person Calling Services (ICPS), noting the Commission’s rejection of its own staff’s recommendation to follow the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2021 meaningful, data-driven reform of ICPS rates.

The appeal asks the court to vacate the 2021 Interim Rate Order and return the issue to the Commission for further proceedings that, the company hopes, will achieve a more thoughtful, data-driven approach to ICPS regulation, both in California and nationwide.

“We are committed to working with state and federal regulators to impose meaningful reforms that will make telecommunications services more affordable and accessible to the consumers that rely on those services to stay connected,” said Dave Abel, President and CEO of ݮƵIOS, parent company of Securus Technologies.

“We have worked hard to find common purpose with federal and state regulators, including the CPUC’s capable staff, in formulating meaningful rate caps and other reforms,” Mr. Abel said. “Unfortunately, the CPUC rejected its staff’s thoughtful recommendation that the Commission adopt the Federal Communication Commission’s 2021 rate reform, instead choosing arbitrary rate caps without considering the necessary data for a thoughtful decision that complied with California law.”

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Mr. Abel said. “We’ve undertaken a national effort to reduce costs and create better outcomes for consumers. Regulation based on the thoughtful evaluation of relevant data is vital. We made an affirmative decision to be collaborative with regulators, municipalities, and advocates, and to encourage decisions based on thoughtful, data-driven approaches.

 “We were encouraged by the CPUC staff’s recommendation to the Commission to use the FCC’s  interim reform as a starting point,” Mr. Abel said. “We were surprised and disappointed when the commissioners rejected that approach and chose an alternative, short-cut. People and families who depend on reliable, affordable services deserve an approach grounded in good data.”

With 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 through 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 work to improve 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 in September 2021 that, unfortunately, did not account for the real costs associated with providing high quality services, and instead placed an arbitrary, unempirical rate cap on calls. We are concerned that this decision will ultimately harm incarcerated individuals by stifling innovation and lowering the quality of services while also further deepening holes in budgets for rehabilitative services.

The company continues to urge the CPUC to adopt the interim rate caps established under a fairer process by the FCC, then continue its ongoing efforts to engage all stakeholders in a comprehensive effort to reduce call rates while protecting public safety and other needed services. The company sought this rehearing from the CPUC and, when that approach failed, had no choice but to appeal the issue to the California Court of Appeals. It remains the company’s sincere hope that this appeal will ultimately result in a more data-based, collaborative approach moving forward.

This is not the first time Securus Technologies has sought more collaboration on the CPUC’s rule for IPCS. In September 2021, the company released an open letter from its president and CEO Dave Abel to the Commission, which is excerpted below:

“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.”

Throughout its transformation, Securus has thus far reduced the costs of calls by more than 35 percent, lowering its national call cost average to $0.11/minute. The company has integrated commission-free and agency-paid options for telephone calls and renegotiated close to 200 contracts with correctional agencies to reduce rates.