FCC Seeks Comment on Carriers Forced to Separate Domestic Violence Victim Phone Line

The proposal is part of the commission’s obligation under the Safe Connections Act.

FCC Seeks Comment on Carriers Forced to Separate Domestic Violence Victim Phone Line
Screenshot of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel at Thursday's open meeting

WASHINGTON, February 16, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission voted in its open meeting Thursday to approve proposed rules that would force carriers to separate from an abuser the phone line of a victim of domestic violence.

The proposal is part of the commission’s obligations under the Safe Connections Act, which was enacted in December and that amends the Communications Act of 1934 to require the carriers to separate the lines that is otherwise shared within two business days after receiving the request from the victim.

A large chunk of the American population is on phone packages that often require the account holder to approve changes to the account.

The law also requires the commission to select the Lifeline program or the Affordable Connectivity Program to dedicate to victims for a low-cost way to stay connected with loved ones and to find help for up to six months. Both programs provide connectivity subsidies generally.

To identify victims, the FCC is proposing that “survivor” be an individual who is 18 years or older and has either suffered a crime against or who cares for another individual who has suffered said crime. Those crimes could include child abuse and neglect, economic abuse and forced marriage. It is also proposing that a criminal conviction or any other determination made by a court not be necessary to trigger the phone line separation.

The proposal is targeting both facilities-based mobile network operators as well as resellers and mobile virtual network operators – those providers that don’t have their own facilities. The FCC is asking for comment on whether Congress intended the line separation rule to apply to all providers of commercial mobile service or private mobile service, regardless of technology.

Comments on the proposals are due 30 days after its publication in the federal register.

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