Biden signs bill that lets domestic violence survivors remove abusers from phone plans

Carriers will have to grant requests for separate phone lines without charging a fee.

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President Joe Biden has signed H.R. 7132 or Safe Connections Act of 2022 into law, and it could help domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking survivors ultimately cut ties with abusers. Under the new law, users can ask mobile service providers to separate their line — as well as their dependents' — from their abusers' if they have a shared contract. That would ensure that abusers no longer have access to their phone records and can't get their service cut. Carriers aren't allowed to charge fees to grant these requests, which they must do within two days.

In addition, Safe Connections Act of 2022 will require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create rules that would make it easier for survivors seeking separate mobile plans to enroll in its Lifeline Program for up to six months. This FCC initiative gives qualifying low-income consumers a discount on phone services, so they can remain connected to job opportunities, friends, family and emergency services while they're working to get back on their feet. The commission also has to establish rules that would prevent calls or texts to hotlines from appearing on call logs, presumably to keep survivors safe.

In a blog post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) celebrated the new law but also said that it would have "preferred a bill that did not require survivors to provide paperwork to 'prove' their abuse." For a request to be valid, a user must submit "appropriate documentation" to verify that the person they're sharing a contract with "committed or allegedly committed an act of domestic violence, trafficking, or a related criminal act against the survivor."

Having to provide paperwork may not be easy, depending on a person's circumstances, and it could retraumatize survivors trying to break free from abusive situations. "However, this new law is a critical step in the right direction," the EFF continued, "and it is encouraging that Congress and the President agreed."