OLYMPIA — Additional free internet access is coming to the Long Beach Peninsula, courtesy of a partnership between Washington state and private organizations.
To date, five Wi-Fi “parking lot hotspots” have been set up on the peninsula as part of a statewide effort for universal public access to broadband internet services. The Washington State Broadband Office estimated earlier this month that about 600 public hotspots across the state will be available in the near future.
On the peninsula, already established hotspots include: Grays Harbor Community College at the Port of Ilwaco; Ilwaco Timberland Library; Ocean Park Timberland Library; Ocean Park Elementary School; and Port of Peninsula.
Debbie Oakes, Pacific County Public Utility District commissioner, said hotspots are also expected to be established in Chinook and at the Seaview Fire Hall. Oakes said Pacific PUD, Ocean Beach School District and Pacific County Broadband Working Group are working to address telecom and availability issues.
In March, OBSD announced a partnership with several businesses and organizations on the peninsula to provide parking lot hotspots for students to use. Along with OBSD schools, Adrift Hotel, Kiss of Mist Espresso, McDonald’s, Metro Espresso, Adelaide’s Coffee and Olde Towne Trading Post allow students to use Wi-Fi services in their parking lots.
Of the 600 hotspots expected to sprout up throughout the state, more than 300 are coming via an initiative between public and private organizations, including Washington State Library, members of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association, the Washington State Broadband Office and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The partnership is being funded by Microsoft and the Avista Foundation, with the federal Information Technology Disaster Resource Center contributing equipment and installation.
“Access to broadband was a challenge for many Washingtonians before covid-19. This rapid, collaborative response is an essential immediate solution but we cannot stop here,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a May 7 press release.
The free Wi-Fi hotspots are primarily restricted to parking lots for people to access in vehicles, although some sites offer indoor public access during business hours. The state stressed that everyone connecting to the hotspots must practice social distancing by staying in their vehicle or at least six feet from other people, as well as wearing a mask if deemed necessary.
Each hotspot has its own security protocol, with some being open and others having Children’s Internet Protection Act safe security installed. On the peninsula, no password is needed for the Grays Harbor Community College hotspot in Ilwaco.