More Action on Predatory Prison Phone Rates

As we noted early this year, the Federal Communications Commission heeded public pressure, and issued a proposal to reform predatory prison phone rates.  Early this week was the official beginning of the public comment period.  UCC OC Inc. and its allies filed at the FCC to oppose these unconscionable rates.


“Predatory prison phone rates are a moral issue,” said Earl Williams, chairs the board of the United Church of Christ Office of Communication, Inc. “We strongly urge the FCC to take rapid steps to lower the price of long-distance rates that can prevent children from calling their fathers, grandmothers from calling their grandsons and pastors from calling their congregants.”


UCC OC Inc. is collecting endorsements from religious organizations and clergy to oppose the practice, and will be organizing for a Father's Day action, reprising last year's successful effort.  Please add your name or organizational endorsement.  This letter will be filed next month at the FCC. 


Earlier this year, Rev. Sala Nolan-Gonzales testified at Rainbow/PUSH's hearing on the topic . She spoke from her long experience visiting prisons every day, talking about the small amount of money prisoners receive for the work they perform while incarcerated.   In addition, Rev. Nolan-Gonzales described the long-standing UCC effort in solidarity with Hawaiian men who are in federal prison at Saguaro, in Arizona, removed from their families and spiritual advisors by more than 4,000 miles. She closed her moving statement as follows:


95% of prisoners return to community. As community members, it is in our best interest to help them through this process so they return to us with some semblance of family and personal connections. If we cannot help them, at the very least, we should do no more harm. Current phone charges are destructive and cruel. They need to be regulated.   

UCC OC Inc. Statement on the Departure of Chairman Genachowski

The statement below can be attributed to Earl Williams, chair, and Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor, United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc.:

Chairman Genachowski leaves behind him a string of accomplishments and a long to-do list for his successor.  We commend his early work to bring a comprehensive and long-overdue focus on bringing high-speed broadband Internet to all people, including low-income and underserved populations.  In contrast, we've been disappointed on the lack of focus on issues important to us and to the civil rights community.   While Internet access is important, it cannot address structural impediments to a diverse and accountable media.  It does not bring down the exorbitant rates that families pay to reach their loved ones in prison.  And as the FCC focuses now on persuading television stations to give up their spectrum so it can be used for new mobile devices, it appears that television ownership by women and people of color are suffering further decimation in the process. 


We urge the Administration to appoint a new Chair, and Acting Chair, who understands personally the broad diversity of this country and can quickly get to work on these issues. 


The United Church of Christ is a faith community rooted in justice. It established the Office of Communication, Inc. in 1959 as its ministry working to replace the media we have with the media we need to create a just society.   Learn more about UCC OC Inc. at

The Cleveland-based United Church of Christ has 5,700 local congregations across the United States. It was formed by the 1957 union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.


Faith-Based Grassroots Education and Action

OCincLOGOCheryl’s client, the United Church of Christ’s media justice and communications rights ministry, OC Inc.,  started work in coalition with other groups to end predatory prison phone rates.  Cheryl was able to combine her policy skills with grassroots education tools to bring the issue home to people in the pews and persuading the FCC to act. [Read more…]

Belo’s Decherd: New Media Must Be Guided By Old Media Values

The Radio Television Digital News Foundation changed its name several years back to reflect the rise of digital media, but March 14 may have been the real milepost as the organization saluted Twitter as a First Amendment award winner. And while traditional journalists collecting their own First Amendment awards echoed salutes to the transformative impact of 140 characters and the technology that powers the Internet, the evening ended with Belo Chairman Robert Decherd advising/warning that investment in traditional journalism and its values should not be trumped by technology.

read more

President Obama meets again with tech bigwigs

President Barack Obama met with a number of top technology CEOs and senior executives to discuss policy issues that are key for the industry this year.

read more

Hey Internet, where’s the outrage?

Compare, for a moment, the Internet industry’s outrage against potential government censorship, as they see it, with the seeming indifference to government surveillance. In 2012, major Web sites staged a massive global protest against a law that would have given the government new powers to shut down sites associated with piracy. Yet, as Congress considers sweeping new surveillance procedures over popular Internet companies, those same digital activists are largely silent. It begs the question, does this younger, tech-savvy generation care more about innovation than civil liberties?

read more

Recalculating the privacy debate after Google Maps penalty

By now, consumers and citizens may have detected a pattern: New technologies allow new types of privacy invasions, which then lead to ad hoc remedies – until the next type of intrusion. As the string of Google violations shows – along with dozens of new privacy laws passed since the 1970s – the pace of this cat-and-mouse privacy quest has quickened in the Digital Age.

read more

Districts Forge School-to-Home Digital Connections

A look at the importance of using today's technological tools to bridge homes and schools in all kinds of communities—rural, suburban, or urban—and give students online access to learning resources well beyond the school day. As increasing numbers of school districts have put 1-to-1 computing programs in place, administrators are wrestling with whether to allow those devices to go home with students at the end of each day.

read more

Supporting Innovative Approaches to Spectrum Sharing

The President’s strategy for expanding the capacity of high-speed wireless broadband services across the Nation may get a boost from a new Defense Department Initiative to fund research and development of innovative new approaches to spectrum sharing. Under one strategy for maximizing spectrum efficiency, commercial broadband providers are permitted to share spectrum bands that otherwise would be allocated for exclusive Government use, or vice versa; this approach can increase the productivity of a band that was designated for a specific purpose decades ago but is underutilized today.

read more