In response to the impacts of COVID-19, new Drive-In WiFi Hotspots provide free temporary, emergency internet access for Washingtonians who do not have broadband service to their homes.
Our Grays Harbor County site has been selected as one of the initial fifteen locations in Washington to participate in the project. It provides wireless internet access at Aberdeen’s The Shoppes at Riverside in the parking area located near the food court entrance. There is a specific emphasis on student access but is available to all residents. In addition to access for remote learning, it can be used for job searches, telehealth, telework, unemployment filing, census participation and other uses. The site is located at 1017 South Boone Street in Aberdeen. This WiFi hotspot is supported locally by WSU Extension, Greater Grays Harbor Inc., and Grays Harbor College.
Anticipated WiFi coverage area is 1000-2000 feet diameter around each access point. Each location will include network security protocols and promote Governor Jay Inslee’s social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 outbreak. You are asked to respect the property of those who have offered its availability.
Dan Teuteberg, the County Director of WSU Extension Grays Harbor, said “when you log on you will be asked to identify your uses such as education, telehealth, job search or government services. This information will help determine the important reasons we need to increase broadband availability to homes and businesses in our area.”
This project was launched in collaboration with Washington State University Extension, the Washington State Library, part of the Washington Office of the Secretary of State, and the Washington State Broadband Office. Equipment for the first 15 sites was generously donated by Microsoft. Counties participating in this first phase of this project include Asotin, Clallam, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Pierce, Skamania, Stevens, Wahkiakum, and Yakima.
Over the next few weeks, Phase Two additional sites will be offered at WSU Extension offices, libraries, schools, and other locations across the state. Phase Three is dependent on funding and site selection based on areas of need. Efforts are underway to identify sites that meet those with the greatest need through a selection process that includes school free and reduced lunch programs data and reported regional unserved access areas.
“We are delighted to offer this free internet access in our community. COVID-19 has shone a light on how critical broadband is for our economy, educational needs and quality of life for all our residents,” said Dan Teuteberg.
A State Drive-In WiFi Hotspot locations map created in collaboration with the OCIO (Office of the Chief Information Officer) and WaTech will be available at www.driveinwifi.wa.gov. This map will be continually updated as new sites are offered across the state.
Though this project does not expand networks to homes or businesses, it does offer an immediate source for internet in regional locations for citizens, students, and workers during the COVID-19 emergency. The project partners and supporters are committed to continuing work beyond this crisis to ensure all in Washington have access to affordable, reliable broadband and the skills to successfully use it.
For more information about this statewide effort, visit driveinwifi.wa.gov