Axios' Mike Allen (L) and Microsoft President Brad Smith (R). Photo: Axios.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Microsoft President Brad Smith at an Axios event on Thursday called for expanding access to broadband in the United States in order to close the digital divide in education.

What they're saying: "Broadband needs to be a fact of life in the United States and it needs to be free for everyone, and it needs to be regulated in a way that it can be made equitably distributed all throughout America," Weingarten said during a discussion on the Future of Employability.

  • "The kids that lack broadband connection in May are probably going to lack it in September as well. If someone was in a home that didn't have enough digital devices to go around, they may still be facing that same problem as they start school in a couple of weeks," Smith said.
  • "For a country for whom I think universal public education has been a defining value ... Let's build the kind of infrastructure that will enable all of our kids to do homework after school, and if we face another epidemic or pandemic we'll be prepared in a way we are not right now," he added.

The big picture: Schooling from home has highlighted unequal access to high-speed internet and a lack of devices for many American students, most often from low-income homes. While many schools are moving towards in-person classes this fall, others are continuing with virtual school, extending the issue into a new school year.

Editor's note: This Axios Event was sponsored by Microsoft.

Watch the event.

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