FCC Releases NPRM on Supporting Connectivity Needs of Domestic Violence Survivors

On February 17, 2023, the FCC released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) seeking comment on several rules to implement the Safe Connections Act of 2022, which provides statutory support for specific measures to benefit survivors of domestic violence and abuse.  The item was adopted at the February Open Meeting. The NPRM seeks comment on the following proposals:

  • Mandated Line Separation for Survivors: A requirement that, for shared mobile service contracts under which a survivor and abuser each use a line, covered providers are required, not 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 the shared mobile service contract, or (2) separate the line of the abuser from the shared mobile service contract.  Only covered providers that cannot operationally or technically effectuate a line separation request would be relieved of the separation obligation, but they still must allow for survivors to submit requests for separation.
    • The FCC seeks comment on relevant definitions, the information that should be provided in a separation request, mandatory notices and communications, prohibiting making line separations contingent on financial requirements, the financial responsibilities and account billing following separation, and other issues on this topic.
    • The FCC also seeks comment on the appropriate implementation timeline, how long covered providers will need to implement the technical and programmatic changes, and whether small providers need additional time, while noting that the statute has a 60 day effective date requirement.
  • Ensuring the Privacy of Calls and Text Messages to Domestic Abuse Hotlines:  Establishing a central database of covered hotlines to be used by a covered provider or a wireline provider of voice service and requiring such providers to omit from consumer-facing logs of calls or text messages any records of calls or text messages to covered hotlines in such a central database, while maintaining internal records of those calls and messages.
    • The FCC seeks comment on how to define the scope of the obligation, who should administer the database, and how to operationalize the database.
  • Designating Emergency Communications Support for Survivors: Designating the Lifeline program to provide support to survivors in connection with the Safe Connections Act.  The FCC seeks comment on modifications to the program for this purpose, how to define financial hardship, application and enrollment requirements, and other program concerns.

Comments will be due 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

Reply Comments will be due 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

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