EPIC Urges FCC to Lower Prices, Reduce Surveillance on Prison Telecommunications
May 9, 2023
In comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), EPIC urged the Commission to minimize allowable charges for security costs and site fees, and to require secure accommodations for attorney-client privileged communications on prison phone and video-visitation systems. The Commission is implementing the Martha Wright-Reed Act of 2022, passed to expand the Commission’s authority to regulate video-conferencing and other jail and prison communications systems. The act gives the FCC the power and instruction to lower often exorbitant rates charged to the friends and families of incarcerated people.
EPIC highlighted the troubling practice of passing off the costs of unneccessary surveillance onto consumers, and for facilities to enjoy kickbacks from these fees. EPIC also urged the Commission to act swiftly to require accommodations that would allow lawyers to video-call and email their clients without breaching attorney-client privilege. The comments also urged the FCC to read its existing authorities broadly to regulate e-messaging systems in jails and prisons. These messaging systems are a key link between incarcerated people and their loved ones but are remarkably expensive and provide no privacy whatsoever.
EPIC previously filed an amicus brief seeking to protect attorney-client privileged information from cell-phone searches at the border and regularly engages with Congress and the FCC to protect phone privacy.