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On the Issues: Rural America

Rural Broadband 

Qasim Rashid believes that 21st Century communities must have broadband internet access to maximize business efficiency, education opportunities, and health care outcomes. For that reason, we need to stop thinking of broadband as a luxury. President Obama rightfully called for reclassifying internet service as a public utility. We should make that into federal law.

  • Our “Last Mile Broadband Plan” is aimed at closing the digital divide and making our communities more prosperous by giving local governments the power and resources to create broadband internet utilities to serve their residents. Click here to read our plan in detail.
  • Access to broadband internet would make rural communities more vibrant and residents more productive by improving access to education, health care, broader markets for goods, increased telecommuting, and expanded cultural resources.
  • Private markets will not allocate these resources to completing rural broadband access because firms see no return on investment on building out the last mile infrastructure.
  • Expanding broadband access to every American would cost between $20B and $350B depending on technology used, speed, and technical specifications.
  • Government subsidies in the form of $22B in loans and grants have not appreciably expanded broadband access in rural communities since 2013. This is largely because these programs use questionable data and methodologies for identifying communities that lack access.
  • Allowing state and local governments to provide internet access as a public utility is the best answer. Today, state and federal law places limits on this solution.

Qasim believes that achieving the American Dream in the 21st Century requires access to broadband internet. It is as necessary to a high quality of life as electricity and clean water. Especially now, running a business, a small farm, or educating children depends on access to high-speed internet.

As Congressman, Qasim will work to pass legislation that ensures that broadband access is treated as a utility and that the federal government makes the necessary investments to provide high speed broadband to rural and underserved communities.

Farming & Food Security

In 2018 the rate of food insecurity in rural areas was 12.7%. Many rural areas are considered food deserts, where people lack accessibility to fresh and affordable food. Adding to this tragedy is that some of these rural food deserts are in the same communities where agriculture is key to the local economy. A key solution to this problem is we must ensure that food can be enjoyed in the same communities where it is grown. This creates healthier communities, reduces costs associated with transportation, lowers the carbon footprint, and helps working families by strengthening the local economy. We can achieve these goals by:

  • Promoting Food-Cooperatives: grocery stores in which consumers or workers are also owners, and which focus on sourcing from local farmers. Traditional grocery stores often do not come to rural areas because they don’t anticipate high enough profits.
  • Promoting Community Supported Agricultural programs (CSAs): local residents pay local farmers at the beginning of the year and receive a portion of whatever is produced at the time of harvest. Having this money up front helps farmers with operational costs.
  • Promoting Farm to School Initiatives: local farmers sell fresh produce directly to public schools or incorporate school gardens into meal programs, ensuring healthy food is served to students and teachers. This also provides further opportunity for education about local farms, gardening, and nutrition.
  • Establish a Farmers’ Land Army (based on the Women’s Land Army of WWI and WWII) to quickly train new farmers in environmentally beneficial farming practices. Recruits to the FLA should receive student loan forgiveness.
  • Support antitrust protections that safeguard small business farmers from agriculture monopolies.
  • We need a US food policy focused on helping farming families, economic equality, creating a healthier population, fighting climate change, and preserving our environment.
  • We must improve access to healthcare and mental health care in rural areas. We can do this by guaranteeing healthcare for every American. This will remove many of the financial barriers that keep medical facilities from opening in rural areas, and help remove many of the financial barriers that force currently operating facilities to close.