In response to the impacts of COVID-19 and distance learning, a new Drive-In WiFi Hotspot is available to provide free temporary, emergency internet access for people who do not have broadband service to their homes. The third site hosted by WSU Extension Grays Harbor County has been selected to provide wireless internet access at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds Pavilion. The site is located at 32 Elma McCleary Road in Elma. The other two sites are located at The Shoppes at Riverside in Aberdeen and The Red Rooster in Humptulips. 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, and other uses. This WiFi hotspot is in partnership and supported locally by WSU Extension and Grays Harbor County.

The anticipated WiFi coverage area is 1000-2000 feet diameter around each access point. Each location will include network security protocols and social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

WSU County Director Dan Teuteberg said “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. 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.”

A Drive-In WiFi Hotspot locations map created in collaboration with the OCIO (Office of the Chief Information Officer) and WaTech is 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.