The Federal Communications Commission announced this week it has adopted new rules that are intended to help domestic abuse survivors who may not have direct control over their cellphone plans.
The FCC's new rules require mobile providers to provide separate phone lines linked to family plans where the abuser is on the account. The FCC said it is also requiring providers to omit records of calls and text messages to domestic violence hotlines from bills and logs customers have access to. The FCC is also requiring providers to provide assistance to survivors who suffer from financial hardship through the FCC’s Lifeline program.
The FCC said it expects cellphone carriers to be in compliance of these rules by late 2024.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline has long recommended abuse victims to consider getting a pay-as-you-go cellphone plan, and keeping the phone in a hidden location. These plans, however, tend to be more expensive, which can be troublesome for abuse victims who struggle with finances.
"For many of us, family plans cut costs and make wireless communications simple with one bill for multiple phones. But for survivors, these plans are fraught. They can be used to monitor calls and location. They can be a tool for control. So we are setting up a way for survivors to swiftly and securely separate their phone lines from family plans," said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
In its rulemaking, the FCC said, "Survivors may be deterred in seeking help by the threat of an abuser using access to call and text logs to determine whether the survivor is in the process of seeking help, seeking to report, or seeking to flee."
Carriers will soon have a list of domestic abuse hotlines that will be omitted from bills.
The new rules were finalized after Congress approved the Safe Connections Act of 2022 at the end of last year. The bill was passed out of the House and Senate without objection. The law requires carriers to separate the line of a victim and their perpetrator within two business days of receiving a request.
For those in need of reaching the National Domestic Violence Hotline, its number is 1-800-799-SAFE. Anyone can also chat with someone at the hotline by visiting the hotline's website.
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