With Election Day two weeks away, the COVID induced reliance on virtual meetings and education has pushed broadband access to the forefront of our local races. Voters in Virginia’s 1st District have a decision to make. Do we reelect incumbent Rob Wittman, or vote for his challenger, human rights attorney, Qasim Rashid?
Rob Wittman complains, “My opponent likes to besmirch my record, but broadband always has, and always will be, one of my top priorities.”
My question for him, “What record?” While his office’s press releases sound impressive, prior to 2020 he had neither introduced, nor co-sponsored, any broadband-related legislation in Congress. He touts his position as co-chair of the Rural Broadband Caucus, yet in this post, his actions are limited to convening meetings.
In April of this year, he co-sponsored his first legislation addressing the long-standing need for expanded broadband coverage, H.R. 6456 Serving Rural America Act. Though currently in committee, if enacted, the bill would establish a grant program to expand broadband service.
Representative Wittman has been in Congress for 13 years, yet a legislative search of his record on internet issues shows only the Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2013. This leads me to conclude that either broadband hasn’t actually been a top priority during his 12 years in office, or he’s an incredibly ineffective legislator.
Qasim Rashid, on the other hand, recognizes that old solutions of grants and loans have proven expensive and ineffective. If elected, he would immediately propose legislation to establish a Rural Broadband Expansion Authority. According to his website, “This new authority would bring together telecommunications, information technology, construction, education, and agricultural experts to assist local communities with the formation of effective and efficient broadband utilities.” Rashid believes funding to solve the digital divide should be provided to local municipalities and counties, not big corporations.
Congressman Rashid will provide the leadership and innovative ideas our district has lacked for more than a decade. I hope you will join me in voting for Qasim Rashid on Nov. 3!