The virtual practices now required for a number of jobs and schools can be challenging for those who have difficulty gaining access to the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drive-In Wi-Fi hotspots can provide free public emergency access to the internet for people who do not have broadband service within their residences, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce (WSDC).
Since public libraries are closed due to the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Jay Inslee, and Wi-Fi is no longer available through the Pierce County Library System, some external Wi-Fi access locations have begun to appear across Wash. state. These hotspots and internet access locations are open to the public, allowing people the opportunity to drive in and park to stay connected.
Residents and visitors of Wash. state can find these public hotspot locations with the location finder on the WSDC webpage, https://www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/washington-state-drive-in-wifi-hotspots-location-finder/.
Some sites offer indoor accessibility as well, with social distancing regulations and hygiene precautions in place. Each site has its own security protocol, and while some are open, others might have the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) previously installed, according to WSDC’s website.
Funding for these hotspot locations is provided by Microsoft and the Avista Foundation. A number of the partners include Washington State University, the Washington State Broadband Office and Washington Technology Solutions.
Puyallup offers one Wi-Fi hotspot location at the WSU Puyallup Research Center in Pierce County, 2606 W Pioneer Ave. There are ten locations in Tacoma, one in Enumclaw, two in Federal Way and one in Auburn, while larger cities such as Seattle have additional locations to choose from, according to the WSDC.
Over 300 new drive-in hotspots for Wi-Fi access are expected by the Washington State Broadband Office to come online throughout the state through an initiative to bring broadband internet access to all Wash. residents, according to WSDC’s website.
Pierce College has also offered Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the spring quarter for those who don’t have access to the internet. On selected dates, listed on the Pierce College Student Support Center website, library staff will be available in the parking lot to loan out items and collect returns.
In order to check the availability of such hotspots, students can access the library catalog and click media equipment. To reserve specific items, students must contact their library either by email or phone.
Wi-Fi accessibility accommodations for Pierce College students and Washintonians are available to utilize with more hotspots through WSDC expected to pop up as time progresses.
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