In the 21st century, it is difficult to lead a life without a cell phone. It is also difficult to change your number—you’ve given it to all your friends, family, doctors, children’s schools, and so on. It’s especially difficult if you are trying to leave an abusive relationship where your abuser is in control of your family’s phone plan and therefore has access to your phone records.
Thankfully, a bill to change that just became law.
The Safe Connections Act (S. 120) was introduced in the Senate on January 2021 by Senators Brian Schatz, Deb Fischer, Richard Blumenthal, Rick Scott, and Jacky Rosen and in the House (H.R. 7132) by Representatives Ann Kuster and Anna Eshoo. This common sense bill would make it easier for survivors of domestic violence to separate their phone line from a family plan while keeping their own phone number. It also requires the FCC to create rules to protect the privacy of the people seeking this protection. This bill overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Congress, and it was signed by the President on December 7, 2022, making it Public Law 117-223.
Telecommunications carriers are already required to make numbers portable when users want to change carriers. So it should not be hard for carriers to replicate a seamless process when a paying customer wants to move an account within the same carrier. EFF strongly supports this bill.
We would have preferred a bill that did not require survivors to provide paperwork to “prove” their abuse. For many survivors, providing paperwork about their abuse from a third party is burdensome and traumatic, especially when it is required at the very moment when they are trying to free themselves from their abusers. However, this new law is a critical step in the right direction, and it is encouraging that Congress and the President agreed.