PUD 3 to Roll Out Drive-By Wi-Fi Hotspots

Mason PUD 3 has been working with community partners to make sure every student in Mason County has a safe place where they can use a free high-speed Wi-Fi hotspot to access classwork, download assignments, and communicate with their teacher.

Mason PUD 3’s electric vehicle makes a stop at the Port of Dewatto office on Mason County’s Tahuya Peninsula. The location is one of the prospective sites for a “Drive-By Wi-Fi” hotspot.

PUD 3 teamed up with fire districts, port districts, community halls, Mason County parks, and others to identify locations for the hotspots where these locations have existing and nearby PUD fiber optic equipment. The sites will be all over Mason County, from the Tahuya Peninsula to Matlock, and many places in between. Wireless equipment is on order and will be installed in the coming weeks.

“Mason PUD 3’s vision includes a commitment to collaborate with community partners to create opportunities that enhance the economy and quality of life,” said Annette Creekpaum, Mason PUD 3 Manager. “By establishing these Wi-Fi hotspots, we hope to make it easier for students and community members to keep connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The program is part of PUD 3’s response to the coronavirus emergency. The Drive-By Wi-Fi initiative gives those without high-speed internet in their homes an opportunity to connect to critical services and online learning in their communities while practicing appropriate social distancing. Citizens who need high-speed internet access may also use the hotspots.

PUD 3 was encouraged by the Washington State Broadband Office to set up a network of Wi-Fi sites, in concert with a statewide program to establish similar services at school districts throughout the state.

In an April 6 news conference, Chris Reykdal Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction compared the internet to an essential utility, “From the seeds of crisis come the strong roots and blossoms of innovation,” Reykdal said, “If there’s anyone today who does not see telecom and connectivity as an essential utility, much like water and clean air, then I would challenge them to think about our history,” he stated. “Right now, we must sow the seeds of complete innovation in connectivity for families. It is the way we will learn. It is the way of the future.”

“We’re excited that Russ Elliott, executive director of the Washington State Broadband Office, reached out to us with this plan,” said Justin Holzgrove, PUD 3 telecommunications and community relations manager. “Combined with the state’s school Wi-Fi initiative, we can help provide a safe place where students can go to access the high-speed Wi-Fi hotspot, powered by the PUD 3’s fiber-optic network.”

The wireless network will be configured with basic internet filters, so users can use the Wi-Fi responsibly, and safely. A list of the proposed hotspots is available on Mason PUD 3’s website: www.pud3.org/wifi, which will be updated as they go live.