Drive-In WiFi hotspot available for free internet


Courtesy photo.

Carrie Backman, WSU Wahkiakum County Extension director, at the new Wahkiakum County WiFi location.

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.

The WSU Wahkiakum County Extension office has been selected as one of an initial 15 locations in Washington to participate in the project. It provides wireless internet access at 25 River Street, Cathlamet, in the building parking lot. This WiFi hotspot is supported locally by WSU Wahkiakum County Extension and Wahkiakum County IT. 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.

"We are grateful to partner with Josh Holt at our Wahkiakum County IT office to support this statewide effort," said Carrie Backman, WSU Wahkiakum County Extension director.

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. Users are asked to respect the property of those who have offered its availability.

"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," said Backman.

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 shown a light on how critical broadband is for our economy, educational needs and quality of life for all our residents," said Backman.

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 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 questions or more information about theWahkiakum County site, contact Carrie Backman, 360-795-3278,

For questions or more information about this statewide effort, visit or contact Monica Babine, Washington State University Extension at, (206) 999-8032; Russ Elliott, Washington State Broadband Office at, (360) 725-4052; or Cindy Aden, Washington State Library, at, (360) 819-7236.


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