Rutledge Seeks to Challenge Costly FCC Order
February 24, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today has filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The lawsuit challenges an FCC order that would effectively limit the amount of money that Arkansas and other local units of government may recover from Inmate Calling Systems (ICS).
Rutledge, along with Attorneys General from Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri, are seeking to intervene in order to join the lawsuit, State of Oklahoma v. FCC, which is in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
“Since this order from the FCC was finalized in October, I have spoken with numerous sheriffs, the Arkansas Department of Correction and other agencies about the loss of revenue this order would impose on local communities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Increased financial strain is not something local jails or prisons can handle at this time. Based on the feedback I received, I am seeking to join a lawsuit, brought by my colleague from Oklahoma, which will invalidate this order.”
The FCC’s order, which caps rates and limits fees for ICS, ignores significant ICS- and security-related costs borne by the states and their need to recoup these costs from ICS providers. As explained in the motion to intervene, “the Order is arbitrary and capricious as it does not consider these costs and allow for reasonable cost recoupment by the states. The intervening states will also argue that the Order is unconstitutional and not authorized by federal law.”
In the final order, the FCC caps inmate calls at 11 cents per minute for all local and long distance calls from state and federal prisons. In jails, prices will range from 14 cents to 22 cents per minute, depending on the size of the institution. The new cap accounts for a more than 50 percent decrease from previous limits. Additionally, in a constitutionally-suspect power grab, the new caps will apply to all intrastate calls, not just interstate calls.
Two FCC commissioners, Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, opposed the order, calling it well-intentioned, but saying the order bends the FCC's legal authority and violates the Administrative Procedure Act.