DNC week: On Thursday, August 20 Axios co-founder Mike Allen hosted a conversation on the future of broadband access featuring Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Microsoft President Brad Smith and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Randi Weingarten discussed coronavirus' impact on education and the necessity of expanding broadband access across America.

  • On remote education becoming a fact of life: "In a global pandemic where you have a virus that is very contagious and spreads asymptomatically, we have an obligation to make remote [education] better because, until we can decrease community spread throughout the United States, distance learning and distance working is going to be a fact of life."
  • On equitable broadband access: "A hotspot does not substitute for connectivity into a home or into a school. A hotspot does not substitute for reliable high speed Wi-Fi...We should be thinking about connectivity like we think about radio waves. It should be free to everyone."

Highlighting how public education now depends on not just hardware but internet connectivity, Brad Smith underscored the necessity of prioritizing broadband access as a critical part of infrastructure.

  • On the challenge of bridging the digital divide: "The kids that lacked a broadband connection in May are probably going to lack it in September as well...[they'll] be facing that same problem as they start school in a couple of weeks. For a country for whom I think universal public education has been a defining value and attribute of our society, we have a huge problem."
  • On the social responsibility of the tech sector: "We were born as an industry free of regulation. But given the impact of technology on society today, we need to step up and recognize we need to exercise more responsibility ourselves, and we need to help governments move forward and create a regulatory floor."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar discussed the security challenges of the fall election, unpacking her views on the Trump administration's efforts to suppress voter turnout.

  • Her view on the chaos created by the Trump administration: "When it comes to what [the Trump administration] is doing on the postal service, what they are doing when it comes to not adequately funding and helping our states during the pandemic with elections...it feels like they're trying to foment chaos. Every one Democrat, Republican, Independent has a right to vote. And I would rather put ballots in the mail box and voters in the hospital."
  • Her view on voting by mail versus voting machines: "For right now, at least, the mail in ballots can't be hacked into like the voting machines. It's another reason to vote by mail."

Thank you Microsoft for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

What we overlooked in the switch to remote learning

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

America’s rapid and urgent transition to online school has come with a host of unforeseen consequences that are only getting worse as it continues into the fall.

The big picture: The issues range from data privacy to plagiarism, and schools are ill-equipped to deal with them, experts say.

How "naked ballots" could upend mail-in voting in Pennsylvania

Trump signs in Olyphant, Penn. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered state officials last week to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner "secrecy" envelope in November's election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: The decision went under the radar alongside the simultaneous decision to extend the time that mail-in ballots could be counted, but Philadelphia's top elections official warned state legislators this week that throwing out so-called "naked ballots" could bring "electoral chaos" to the state and cause "tens of thousands of votes" to be thrown out — potentially tipping the presidential election.

Commission releases topics for first presidential debate

Moderator Chris Wallace. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has selected what topics he'll cover while moderating the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden next week.

What to watch: Topics for the Sept. 29 debate will include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, economic policy, racism and the integrity of the election, the Commission for Presidential Debates announced on Tuesday. Each topic will receive 15 minutes of conversation and will be presented in no particular order.

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