FCC adopts new cellphone rules designed to keep domestic violence victims safer

Nov 16, 2023, 10:54 PM | Updated: Nov 17, 2023, 6:30 am

SALT LAKE CITY —  Men and women in abusive relationships now have an added layer of protection from their cell phones.

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday adopted new rules under the Safe Connections of 2022 that are meant to keep domestic violence victims’ phone use safer.

The rules require phone companies to:

  • Remove domestic violence victims from family billing plans within two business days upon request
  • Provide low-cost emergency phones to survivors who need one
  • Mask calls and texts made to domestic violence shelters and hotlines

“It’s great news for victims of domestic violence and those advocating in the field,” said Kimmi Wolf, communications specialist for the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

She said the fear of someone following your every move is very real for many victims of domestic violence.

“So many people are fearful about reaching out because they do feel their phone is tracked,” Wolf said.

She said it’s absolutely essential the FCC masks calls and texts made to domestic violence shelters and hotlines.

“If you feel your perpetrator is more tech-savvy than you, then you almost live in perpetual fear,” Wolf said.

It’s common for victims to get secret, secondary phones.

“Maybe that’s also how you are getting potential job referrals, people calling you back on that, maybe that’s your source of internet,” Wolf said.

It’s how many men and women reach their advocate or stay in touch with their family members when they’re in a dangerous situation. It also comes at a price.

“Every penny is going to count, especially if they’re trying to leave a situation, restart their life,” Wolf said.

Now, the FCC will provide low-cost phones to survivors who need one.

“A cell phone is more than a telephone,” Wolf said. “It really is truly a lifeline.”

If victims are trying to leave their abuser, getting off their shared phone plan can be a huge obstacle.

“These contracts, sometimes the loopholes, the additional fees that might be incurred if you remove yourself from a plan before your contract is due, those are all huge potential stumbling blocks for someone,” Wolf said.

Under the new FCC rules, it’s easier to do.

“To be able to leave a family cell phone plan within two business days upon request, that’s huge,” Wolf said.

Wolf said people living through abuse need to know about this added layer of protection. She said the changes will save lives.

“It is a huge game-changer,” she said.

Domestic violence resources

If you know someone who is going through abuse, the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465).

Resources are also available online at the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition website.

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FCC adopts new cellphone rules designed to keep domestic violence victims safer