FCC Implements Safe Connections Act to Support Survivors of Domestic Violence, Citing EPIC Coalition Concerns

December 8, 2023

On December 5, the Federal Communications Commission published its final rule for the Safe Connections Act, a law designed to support survivors of domestic violence (DV) and other forms of interpersonal violence by making it easier for survivors to separate their phone line from a group phone plan, to obtain discounted phone service through the Lifeline program, and to contact hotlines confidentially by removing records of calls from customer-facing logs like monthly bills.

In response to comments from EPIC and its advocacy partners, the Commission’s rule requires law enforcement to obtain a court order to access information about a line separation request. It also requires covered providers to provide line separation requests in the same languages that the provider advertises its services and requires providers to process all requests for line separation within two days. In a related Fact Sheet, the FCC also cited to EPIC et al.’s comments for issues related to the sensitivity of current address information and to a survivor benefiting from the program more than once.

EPIC and its coalition partners have been advocating on behalf of survivors going back to the FCC’s initial Notice of Inquiry in 2022; the Commission seemed to take these comments into account as it developed its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking earlier this year. In March 2023, EPIC published a blog post with the Safety Net Project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence that further emphasized these points. EPIC filed comments addressing ease of use by survivors, data minimization, and misuse of data by law enforcement in DV contexts, as well as reply comments addressing dual-use applications and services that act as stalkerware.

EPIC advocates for laws, regulations, and policies that safeguard user privacy and protect users from technology-facilitated abuse and harassment, including actions against stalkerware developers. EPIC also filed an amicus brief urging that dating platform companies be held liable when they ignore harassment and abuse.

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