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Prison phone firms can seek exclusion from new ban

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Public Service Commission is giving companies that provide phone service to Louisiana's prisons and local jails the ability to argue their case for continuing pricy surcharges on the calls.

The five-member regulatory panel, which oversees telecommunications companies, unanimously agreed in December to cut the rates charged for most prison calls and to remove surcharges.

The PSC voted 3-2 Wednesday to create a process for letting the companies file for an exemption from the surcharge ban.

PSC member Lambert Boissiere says he pushed for Wednesday's decision because it would give companies a path to seek relief.

Opponents disagreed with allowing companies to keep collecting the surcharges while they seek exemptions from the new rule. The companies would have to return the charges with interest if they don't get an exemption.

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