Posts by Clarissa Ramon:
This week, the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals ruled in two separate decisions that impact how communities of color communicate. The first decision affects what companies can charge individuals to stay connected with loved ones in prison. The second determined whether or not the internet will remain a neutral and open platform.
Last year, after over a decade of advocacy by prison reform advocates, and including more recent involvement by grassroots organizers, civil rights, and media and telecom public interest organizations, the Federal Communications Commission passed a long over-due petition that tackled the practice of exorbitant prison phone rates. Before the FCC stepped in, these rates generated as much as $15 for a single 15-minute call.
Earlier this week the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals ordered a stay on these rules. While their decision upheld what public interest advocates consider the most important part – mandating that prison phone providers charge no more than .25 per minute for debit calls, and .21 per minute for collect calls – other provisions intended to protect families and loved ones of prisoners are stayed.
The provisions that were stayed include mandating that services provided by prison phone companies be cost based, and the “safe harbor” rates of .12 and .14 per minute. Provisions that could extend further relief to the families of the almost 2.3 million individuals behind bars today. As it stands now, communities of color are disproportionately impacted by incarceration in the U.S. 1 in every 3 African American males, and 1 out of every 6 Latinos will likely experience incarceration during their lifetime, with the burden of paying for the high costs of calls falling on their families.
As the nations largest carriers pioneer a network upgrade, Public Knowledge and the Center of Media Justice released a toolkit designed to educate Americans about the IP transition’s potential impact on our everyday lives.
While this transition has the potential to lead to a more efficient communications infrastructure, there are still lots of decisions about how the values that made the old system great will apply to the new.
Public Knowledge asks the FCC to deny AT&T’s acquisition of Leap Wireless to ensure continued access to a low cost competitor.
Joined by Consumer Action and the Writers Guild, West, Public Knowledge has asked the FCC to deny AT&T’s acquisition of Leap Wireless, most commonly known to the public by its brand, Cricket. Thanks to its value-oriented plans, Cricket is often the wireless carrier of choice for consumers who are traditionally left out of the larger wireless carrier markets. We’ve taken this step to ensure low-income, minority and immigrant communities have continued access to a low cost competitor. AT&T’s acquisition of Leap would also limit available spectrum for smaller, rural, regional, and low-cost competitors and leave the Internet economy vulnerable to harmful business practices.
Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to enact a framework that mandates just and reasonable telephone rates for the friends, family and counsel of inmates in state prisons and detention centers.
Today, the Federal Communications Commission approved a framework that mandates just and reasonable telephone rates for the friends, family and counsel of inmates in state prisons and detention centers. The order provides immediate financial relief to the households of the 2.7 million children with a parent behind bars who struggled with the cost of communicating with them. Public Knowledge commends FCC leadership for its action and congratulates the many advocates both in and outside the beltway for their dedicated efforts.
This long awaited action was facilitated through the outstanding and tireless commitment of FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and staff, the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice as well as a wide coalition of civil rights, public interest and criminal justice reform organizations. Together these efforts ensure that the families and loved ones of inmates are no longer susceptible to the exorbitant rates and egregious fee practices of inmate call service providers. To emphasize, the FCC has done exactly what is in their authority according to the Communications Act, by ensuring that phone rates for a population of Americans remain just and reasonable.
As congressional leaders battle over the looming sequester, the need and expense of basic social service programs has been subject of national debate. On Capitol Hill, the costs and benefits of such services are described in terms of dollars and cents. The Universal Service Fund (USF) is no exception from scrutiny and it is the position of Public Knowledge that cuts to our communications service safety net, is a mistake that would harm millions of Americans.
After succumbing to the social and internet buzz around Netflix’s new series House of Cards, I finally sat down to watch an episode. What followed was a five-episode marathon that convinced me Netflix has won this round of the cable vs. internet content distribution battle. After struggling to maintain subscribers due to lack of new content (attributed largely in part to costs set by the cable industry), Netflix took a gamble based on the habits of the next generation of viewers. And the viewers won.