EBT for broadband payments? – GCN


EBT for broadband payments?

To help New York City bridge its digital divide, some experts have come up with a solution that would allow eligible people to pay for broadband access with Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.

Two-fifths of New York City residents still do not have access to high-speed internet at home or mobile, and some say the growing need for high-speed internet outstrips current initiatives. An innovative solution was offered by a cohort of the Tech Executive Leadership Initiative of Aspen Tech Policy Hub, a six-week program in which participants developed strategies to help New York ensure that suppliers awarded contracts through its record investments in broadband infrastructure adhere to the principles of digital inclusion to significantly bridge the digital divide.

“Current efforts to address these [issues] by federal, state and local governments tend to focus on Internet service providers more than consumers, ”said Joshua Gordon, founder and CEO of Red Pocket, during Aspen’s webinar on Internet integration. equity in City Broadband initiatives. “Low-income households suffer from high costs and a lack of market power compared to other target populations. “

The team decided to explore broadband payment options using the same service delivery channels already used by low-income households, said Angela Govila, cohort member and product manager for payments and banking platforms with JPMorgan Chase’s corporate investment banking. Individuals would pay for broadband with the same EBT cards they use to make payments for groceries and utilities through assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for needy families.

The team’s research indicated that only a few changes to the current EBT system infrastructure would be needed to support the program.

First, the team asked the Mayor’s Office of the Technical Director (MOCTO) to create a task force to consider integrating broadband subsidies into EBT cards for New Yorkers.

The following phases focus on targeting end users, consulting with residents of affected communities to confirm the potential benefits of the program, and identifying funding sources. After that, the working group would consult with the state comptroller’s office and Internet service providers to determine which back-end systems need to be modified to support point-of-sale payments and supplier refunds. Legislative and programmatic changes to the EBT program would also be developed.

Full operational deployment would require setting up service payments to ISPs, enrolling eligible participants, integrating broadband providers into the EBT program, and collecting and reporting data.

According to the team, ISPs would benefit greatly from validating EBT for payment by the program, as it would allow digitally underserved households to expand ISP subscribers and improve their overall reputation with the Internet. target market and business decision makers. The program would also give ISPs a head start for future eligibility, as the city is considering similar initiatives.

“EBT is widely used and is the most efficient way to provide government assistance. It’s basically like a debit card, ”Govila said. “It gives them the power to choose their own ISP like any other consumer. “

Learn more about the proposal here.

About the Author

Shourjya Mookerjee is an associate editor for GCN and FCW. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and has written for Vox Media, Fandom and a number of Capital Region media. He can be contacted at [email protected] – or you can find him ranting about sports, cinematography and the importance of local journalism on Twitter @byShourjya.

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