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RNC week: On Tuesday, August 25 Axios Cities author Kim Hart and Axios politics and White House editor Margaret Talev hosted a conversation on North Carolina's broadband access and economic recovery amid the coronavirus, featuring Reenie Askew, Charlotte's chief information officer, and Thomas Parrish, North Carolina's acting secretary and state chief information officer.

Thomas Parrish discussed bridging the digital divide in North Carolina, focusing on current investments in Wi-fi hotspots. The state is allocating $30 million to distribute 100k hotspots with continuous high speed and unlimited data for all students in the state.

  • On investing in the future of connectivity: "If you look at Europe...these countries are investing billions of dollars in their infrastructure to make sure people are connected...I think what we're finally seeing in the United States and in North Carolina is that we need to make that investment, because if we're connected, that means we're ready for tomorrow."
  • On internet access in rural communities: "We're trying to leverage as much of the existing infrastructure as we can...working with local businesses, working with nonprofits, working with other departments like our Parks System...to get that connectivity out to our rural communities."

Reenie Askew focused on how internet connectivity is critical for education and workforce development, highlighting a city government partnership with school districts, nearby community colleges and other businesses to provide 15 spaces for public WiFi.

  • On the importance of providing free public Wi-fi: "If you have to make a decision between taking care of your expenses and food, education, and Internet — Internet would not be at the top of the list."
  • On the connection between accessible Internet and education: "The educational divide increases if we don't have the ability for everyone to be able to not just connect, but do it effectively from home. And so if we're unable to do that, then students who don't have access fall further behind and that we don't need to have."

Thank you Microsoft for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

DreamBox CEO: Broadband should be seen as a utility

Axios' Ashley Gold (left) and Dreambox president and CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson. Photo: Axios

Broadband should be assessed as a household utility in order to improve access, DreamBox President and CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson said Thursday at an Axios virtual event on the future of broadband connectivity.

Why it matters: Broadband access has become essential as the coronavirus pandemic shifted work to home offices and classrooms became remote. Low-income households and communities that don't have reliable broadband access are at an increased risk of falling behind during the pandemic.

Dec 3, 2020 - Health

FCC commissioner: Access to broadband essential to boosting telehealth

Axios' Dan Primack (left) and FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks. Photo: Axios

Access to broadband is essential to boost telehealth, which has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, Federal Communications commissioner Geoffrey Starks said on Thursday at an Axios virtual event on the future of broadband connectivity.

Why it matters: "Access to telemedicine and telehealth via affordable, reliable broadband is going to be extremely important to making sure that folks can safely manage their health from home," Starks said.

Ohio sues Biden admin over reversal of Trump-era abortion referral ban

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Photo: Justin Merriman/Getty Images

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration Monday over a Trump-era ban on abortion referrals that President Biden overturned earlier this month.

The big picture: The lawsuit aims to reinstate two measures included in the 2019 legislation that required federally funded family planning clinics to be "financially independent of abortion clinics," and refrain from referring patients for abortions.