Cougs step up.

Numerous courageous people on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic—nurses, doctors, first responders, and essential workers—sacrificed and helped us all. Many WSU alumni, faculty, and staff sought ways to support them, and to reach out to those in need…


In Washington, nearly one in 10 rural residents lack access to high-speed broadband. Nationally, about 15 percent of rural Americans are offline. Students on the wrong side of this digital divide face limited or nonexistent access to academic advisors and resources.

To help bridge the divide, WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY EXTENSION in late April began opening drive-in Wi-Fi hotspots to help students access online resources during statewide social distancing efforts. With offices serving every one of Washington’s 39 counties as well as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Drive-In Wi-Fi Hotspots Project provides access not only to students trying to cope with online learning, but entire communities, as access points are rolled out at schools, libraries, and community centers across the state.

Crimson car with Wi-Fi symbol on door

“With Extension’s statewide reach, we saw a powerful opportunity to strengthen the digital connection, especially for people and places with limited access,” says André-Denis Wright, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

The Hotspots Project shines a light on an ongoing challenge: bringing digital access to low-density communities that can’t be profitably served by commercial internet providers. Even after the current pandemic subsides, parking lot Wi-Fi could become a permanent feature across Washington.

Wi-Fi symbolStatewide drive-in hotspots finder
(Washington State Department of Commerce)