FCC Proposes Rules to Help Domestic Violence Survivors Access Connectivity

Domestic abuse survivors whose devices and associated telephone numbers are part of a multi-line or shared plan can face difficulties separating lines from such plans and maintaining affordable service. Accordingly, on February 17, the FCC proposed rules to implement the Safe Connections Act of 2022 and support survivors of domestic abuse by helping them leave their abusers’ phone plans, protect the privacy of calls made to domestic abuse hotlines, and provide financial support through the Commission’s affordability programs.1

Specifically, the Commission proposed a rule that would require providers no later than two business days after receiving a completed line separation request from a survivor to: 1) separate the line of the survivor, and the line of any individual in the care of the survivor, from a shared mobile service contract with the abuser, or 2) separate the line of the abuser from the shared mobile service contract. Pursuant to this, the FCC seeks comment on relevant definitions, the information that should be provided in a request, and the appropriate implementation timeline.

The Commission also proposed establishing a central database of covered hotlines that would be omitted from consumer-facing logs of calls or text messages. The FCC seeks comment on how to define the scope of this obligation, who should administer the database, and how to operate the database.

Lastly, the Commission proposed designating the Lifeline or the ACP program to provide support to survivors for up to six months, and seeks comment on which program would be most appropriate and what modifications to the program for this purpose would be required.

Comments and Reply Comments are due on April 12, 2023 and May 12, 2023 respectively. If you are interested in filing Comments or would like to discuss this issue further, please contact Dee Herman at [email protected] or Shannon Forchheimer at [email protected].
[1] Supporting Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC Docket No. 22-238 (rel. Feb. 17 2023).