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.