Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Federal Communications Commission said the number of Americans with access to high-speed internet service has grown since 2017, according to a report Friday.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has put in sharper focus the toll of the digital divide — the gap between those who have broadband internet and those who do not.

By the numbers: The FCC's annual Broadband Deployment Report finds that 18 million Americans, roughly 5.6 percent of the population, lacked access to broadband, according to 2018 data. (That was the most recent full year for which the agency had figures.)

  • That's down from the 21 million the FCC found lacked access in its previous report.
  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai touted his "deep commitment to expanding broadband to all corners of the country" in a statement.
  • "That’s why we’ve taken aggressive steps to remove regulatory barriers to broadband deployment and reform our Universal Service Fund programs," he said.

Yes, but: As Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel pointed out in her dissent, the FCC's method for collecting broadband data can overstate service.

  • "This report is baffling," Rosenworcel said in a statement. "We are in the middle of a pandemic. So much of modern life has migrated online. As a result, it has become painfully clear there are too many people in the United States who lack access to broadband."

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Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 18,912,947 — Total deaths: 710,318— Total recoveries — 11,403,473Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 4,867,916 — Total deaths: 159,841 — Total recoveries: 1,577,851 — Total tests: 58,920,975Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi rips GOP over stimulus negotiations: "Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gives a damn" — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive.
  4. Public health: Majority of Americans say states reopened too quicklyFauci says task force will examine aerosolized spread.
  5. Business: The health care sector imploded in Q2More farmers are declaring bankruptcyJuly's jobs report could be an inflection point for the recovery.
  6. Sports: Where college football's biggest conferences stand on playing.

America's rush for young poll workers

Note: Colorado is a mail-in ballot state, but they also offer in-person polls.; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Local elections officials are sprinting to recruit younger poll workers ahead of November after elderly staff stayed home en masse to avoid coronavirus during primary elections.

Why it matters: A Pew Research analysis reports that 58% of U.S. poll workers in the 2018 midterms were 61 or older. Poll worker shortages can cause hours-long voting lines and shutter precincts.

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America's middle class pandemic

Each day that goes by without a COVID-19 stimulus agreement is another day of worry for many in America's middle class, which was already shrinking before the pandemic began.

Axios Re:Cap digs into middle class myths and realities with Jim Tankersley, a New York Times economics reporter and author of the new book, "The Riches of This Land."