The Washington State Broadband Office estimates over 300 new drive-in Wi-Fi hotspots are coming online statewide through an initiative to bring free public broadband internet access to all residents.

To date, 140 of the new drive-in hotspots are operational, in addition to 301 existing Washington State Library hotspots identified across the state. All told, some 600 public hotspots will soon be available to keep Washington communities connected.

There are two hotspots in Richland, one in Benton City, one in West Richland, seven in Kennewick, three in Pasco, one in Touchet and one in Prescott.

Launching primarily as parking lot hotspots in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the free community Wi-Fi is accessible regardless of how users arrive at the locations.

Hot Spots

Some sites also offer indoor public access during business hours. Everyone using the sites – outside or inside - must practice social distancing and hygiene precautions, including staying in your vehicle or at least six feet from other users and wearing a mask if necessary.

Each hotspot will have its own security protocol. Some will be open and others will have Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) safe security installed.

Depending on where a person lives, some seniors can’t refill prescriptions, furloughed workers can’t apply for unemployment benefits, small businesses can’t access financial assistance, and students can’t do their homework. The feeling at the highest level of the state government that it is absolutely essential to make broadband universally available to strengthen communities throughout the state.

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Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal compared broadband connectivity to utilities like water and power: “Access to internet is an equity issue for our students and educators, and it is intensified by this crisis.”

Libraries across the state have also been integral to the project, turning their Wi-Fi capacity towards their parking lots to ensure patrons can remain connected to libraries’ digital resources.