Phone contracts should not bind survivors to abusers — SAFE Connections Act needed now

Today, the bipartisan SAFE Connections Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Schatz, Fischer, Scott, Blumenthal, Rosen, and Capito will be marked up in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Access Now strongly endorses the legislation, which would make it easier for survivors of domestic violence (typically women) to separate from shared phone plans that include their abuser and take their number with them.

Under the bill, carriers would not be allowed to make separation contingent on paying an additional fee. And, to help survivors afford their phone service once separated, the legislation allows survivors to enroll in Lifeline for six months without verification. Lifeline is the Federal Communications Commission’s program to help make communications services more affordable for low-income populations.

“The SAFE Connections Act provides a concrete solution to a real problem that survivors of domestic violence face,” said Natalia Krapiva, Tech Policy Counsel at Access Now. “Survivors are often entangled psychologically and financially with perpetrators, making leaving an abusive relationship extremely difficult and dangerous. This bill will help ensure that phone plan separation will not be an obstacle to freedom.”

Access Now joined a coalition letter, led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that calls on Senate Commerce Committee leadership to pass the SAFE Connections Act at today’s markup. The letter also notes that the legislation could be improved by working to ensure that separating from a phone plan is not inaccessible to survivors unwilling to share their experience with a carrier.