Wright Petitioners Say Contraband Cellphone Order Ignored Cost Data

A group of inmate family members and others who communicate with inmates has asked the FCC to reconsider its recent contraband cellphone order that they say failed to consider the entire record in the proceeding and to acknowledge opposing legal or policy arguments. In its petition for reconsideration filed today in General docket 13-111, the group, known as the Wright Petitioners after the now deceased lead-petitioner on a request filed nearly 15 years ago for relief from excessive inmate calling charges, said that “the Report and Order included a cost-benefit analysis that stated the record in the proceeding did not contain any ‘detailed or concrete cost estimates.’ However, the Wright Petitioners had, in fact, supplied ‘detailed’ and ‘concrete cost data,’ and even took the additional step of reminding the Commission that this information existed, and was available for its review, when it met with Commission staff after the draft Report and Order was released.”

The FCC contraband cellphone order adopted earlier this year was aimed at assisting correctional facilities in deploying equipment that targets contraband wireless devices increasingly used by inmates for criminal activities, including operating drug operations and ordering the murders of people outside of prisons and jails (TR Daily, March 23). The order will make it easier for such facilities to obtain FCC authorization to operate contraband interdiction systems (CIS) and will require wireless carriers to cooperate with CIS operators and correctional facilities “in a timely manner.”

In their petition for reconsideration, the Wright Petitioners noted that both FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Mike O’Rielly “have expressed strong support for the Commission’s reliance on fact-based, detailed cost-benefit analyses prior to the adoption of new rules, and the Commission is in the process of establishing the Office of Economics and Data to assist in this process. Under no reasonable reading of the Report and Order’s cost-benefit analysis did the Commission meet this standard.”

Along with the order adopted in March, the FCC adopted a further notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on whether it should take additional measures to address the issue of contraband devices in prisons and jails, including requiring carriers to identify and disable devices. It also sought input on whether other technological solutions can help stop contraband devices, including wireless signal quiet zones and beacon-based technologies. Comments on the FNPRM were due at the FCC today. —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterksluwer.com