Internet for All in Washington

The Washington State Broadband Office is leading a state planning process to develop a Five-Year Action Plan and a State Digital Equity Plan. These two plans will establish eligibility for federal funding to deliver significant investments for expanding broadband access and to help close the digital divide in Washington.

The Internet for All in Washington initiative will create strategies to ensure reliable, high-speed Internet across the state of Washington, along with opportunities to invest in digital equity programs to make sure that in addition to Internet access, people also have the tools and skill sets necessary to fully take advantage of the benefits that come with digital inclusion.

Kids at computers

Governor appoints Aaron Wheeler to lead Washington State Broadband Office

Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Aaron Wheeler to serve as director of the Washington State Broadband Office within the Department of Commerce. Wheeler is an information technology professional with 18 years of experience working with the Suquamish Tribe’s government.
“Rural internet access is a priority in Washington, and Aaron’s experience will help everyone get connected no matter where they are,” Gov. Inslee said. “I know he’s eager to get to work and I’m looking forward to our continued progress on this important effort.”
“Aaron deeply understands what it means to strengthen communities and provide the tools they need to succeed,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “His background partnering with Tribes, knowledge of information technology, and experience bringing internet access to underserved communities will be an asset to the state as we work to ensure everyone has access to high-speed internet.”
Wheeler’s first day on the job is March 1. He’ll lead the WSBO as it works with other state agencies and private partners to develop and implement a five-year action plan and digital equity plan to create universal, reliable high-speed internet across Washington.

Read the full release. 

Challenge process web page goes live

Our Washington Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Challenge Process web page is live. The page includes information for challenging the status of a Broadband Service Location (BSL) as “served,” “underserved,” or “unserved”. We will start the challenge process in the spring of 2024. There will be multiple webinars and trainings available for eligible challengers and rebutters. We will post updates about the challenge process on the page as the information becomes available.

Review the plans

Draft Initial Proposal Volume II

The Washington State Broadband Office (WSBO) is announcing the opening of a public comment period for Washington’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD) DRAFT Initial Proposal Volume II.

The public comment period ended on Nov. 30, 2023. Review the public comments we received in the Draft Initial Proposal Volume II Public Comment Report (PDF).

Review the DRAFT Initial Proposal Volume II document (PDF).

Volume II of the Initial Proposal details 16 requirements addressing the planning process, the sub-grantee selection process, and other requirements associated with using BEAD funding. Volume I details the additional four requirements, and it’s public comment period closed on Nov. 10, 2023.

Based on feedback received during the public comment period for the Initial Proposal Volume II, the WSBO has decided on the following methodology for defining project areas:

  • Non-tribal areas – Each county is divided into approximately 1,000 eligible Broadband Serviceable Locations (BSLs) groupings. Each of these groupings is a project area.
  • Tribal lands – Each reservation is a project area, regardless of the number of BSLs.

Through continued consultation with stakeholders and additional public engagement, project areas are being fine-tuned manually to ensure they are contiguous, avoid geographic barriers, are consolidated efficiently and ensure that project areas do not overlap. This manual process will be completed before the BEAD Challenge Period.

For entities planning on submitting applications for project areas, exercise caution when viewing the conceptual project area maps used for the Initial Proposal Volume II public comment. These are not intended for project design or evaluation. The manual adjustments may significantly alter project areas and result in the need to redesign and reevaluate potential projects when the final maps are published. View the conceptual project area maps.

Initial Proposal Volume I

The public comment period for Washington’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD) DRAFT Initial Proposal Volume I closed on Nov. 10, 2023. Review the public comments we received in the Draft Initial Proposal Volume I Public Comment Report (PDF).

Review the Initial Proposal Volume I document (PDF). 

Building upon ongoing digital inclusion efforts, extensive public engagement efforts, and insight from local and tribal governments in Washington, the WSBO is releasing this final Initial Proposal Volume I. Volume I contains information from four of 20 Initial Proposal requirements. 

Volume II of the Initial Proposal details the additional 16 requirements addressing the planning process, the sub-grantee selection process, and other requirements associated with using BEAD funding. It is also posted on this page and its public comment period closed on Nov. 30.

Challenge Process Webinar and Licensing Requirements

We will conduct a required state challenge process during the spring of 2024. This process will provide a formal avenue to capture challenges to a Broadband Service Location (BSL) status as “served,” “underserved” or “unserved.”

Read more about the challenge process and the licensing required to participate. 

Register for the Feb. 1 challenge process webinar to learn more. 

Washington's Digital Equity Plan

The Washington State Broadband Office developed a draft Digital Equity Plan after a robust public engagement period and planning process to capture Washington state’s diverse voices and identify the needs and barriers to connecting Washingtonians across the state. The draft plan’s 60-day public comment period closed on Oct. 31, 2023.

View the draft plan (PDF)
Draft Digital Equity Plan Public Comments (PDF)

Bead 5-year Action Plan

Washington state’s BEAD 5-Year Action Plan serves as the foundational comprehensive needs assessment that will inform the subsequent planning elements required by the National Telecommunications Administration (NTIA) under the Internet for All program. The BEAD Five Year Action Plan public comment period is now closed. The five-year plan has been submitted and accepted by NTIA. We are considering all comments and suggestions as we finalize the Draft Initial Proposal Volume I, Draft Initial Proposal Volume II, and the Digital Equity Plan.

Washington state’s BEAD 5-Year Action Plan serves as the foundational comprehensive needs assessment that will inform the subsequent planning elements required by NTIA under the Internet for All program. Comments on the BEAD Five Year Action Plan are being accepted through October 15, 2023 and may be sent to InternetforAll@Commerce.wa.gov. Comments on the BEAD Five Year Action Plan accepted through October 15, 2023.
The Washington State Broadband Office has developed a draft Digital Equity Plan after a robust public engagement period and planning process to capture the diverse voices of Washington state and to identify the needs and barriers to getting Washingtonians connected across the state. This draft plan has now been released and has a 60-day public comment period to give communities the opportunity to provide feedback before its final submission to the federal government. Comments on the Draft Digital Equity Plan are being accepted through October 31, 2023. We are hosting 3 in-person public comment sessions throughout the State. The public is invited join us at one of the three sessions below to review the Draft Digital Equity Plan, ask questions and submit any comments or feedback. Details of the in-person Public Comment sessions are as follows:
  • September 26, 2023 – Southridge Sports and Events Complex, Numerica Pavilion Conference Room 2901 Southridge Blvd, Kennewick, WA 99338 (5:00-7:00 p.m.)
  • September 27, 2023 – Burlington Public Library, Skagit River Side Room (5:00-7:00 p.m.); Address: 820 E Washington Ave, Burlington, WA 98233
  • September 28, 2023 – Seattle Central Library, Level 4 Room 1 (4:00-6:00 p.m.); Address: 1000 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

Community Feedback

A key part of the Internet for All planning process is listening to the feedback of Washington residents as we go. Draft and final planning documents will be posted here as they become available for public review. Your comments are strongly encouraged.

Read the comments we have received (BOX)

Community engagement

The Washington State Broadband Office is continuing community outreach and engagement for the state broadband plans that will unlock federal resources to create a stronger more inclusive broadband opportunity for all Washingtonians.

Monthly BEAD Webinar Meetings

We will host monthly BEAD updates with a Q&A opportunity. Register for the upcoming webinars now.

Upcoming webinar dates:
All webinars are from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
No meeting for Dec. 2023
Jan. 24, 2024
Feb. 28, 2024
March 27, 2024
April 24, 2024
May 22, 2024 
Jun 26, 2024 
Jul 24, 2024 
Aug 28, 2024 
Sep 25, 2024 
Oct 23, 2024 
Nov 27, 2024 
Dec 25, 2024 
Jan 22, 2025
Feb 26, 2025 
Mar 26, 2025 
Apr 23, 2025 
May 28, 2025 
Jun 25, 2025

These webinars will be hosted via Zoom and explain the efforts to expand affordable and reliable Internet access to everyone in the state, while giving you a platform to submit comments and questions.

About the project

The Biden-Harris Administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provides $65 billion in funding for high-speed internet efforts through multiple federal grant programs. Each eligible entity, including states and territories, will conduct their own planning and program development using funds from these grants.

The BIL funnels a high percentage of broadband funding into broadband infrastructure and digital equity through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program and the Digital Equity programs. These programs will provide more than $48 billion for infrastructure deployment, internet installation, digital equity programs, workforce development and training, digital literacy and skills education, and the adoption of high-speed internet to connect Americans with their communities, their democracy, and the economy. The state of Washington is focusing its efforts in completing the required planning for these programs. These planning efforts will establish eligibility for funds that will deliver results for all who call Washington home. The final amount of total federal funding will be calculated through a formula allocation based on the number of unserved and underserved residences and businesses in the state.

The BEAD program, as defined by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), is “a program to get all Americans online by funding partnerships between states or territories, communities, and stakeholders to build infrastructure where we need it and to increase adoption of high-speed internet.” The program provides $42.45 billion for infrastructure planning and implementation nationwide.

The Digital Equity programs provide $2.75 billion in nationwide funding to promote digital inclusion and advance equity for all by engaging communities to build their capabilities in accessing and utilizing affordable, reliable high-speed Internet to meet their needs and improve their living standards.

For more information on the BEAD and Digital Equity programs and other broadband related federal funding programs visit the federal government’s Internet for All website.

Broadband access is essential for everyday activities such as working from home, remote learning, telehealth, staying connected to communities, and social interaction. That is why the Broadband Office strives to improve both the adoption and availability of broadband services for Washington State residents.

Unfortunately, affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet has remained inaccessible to some communities in the United States, restricting their ability to have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society. According to the 2017-2021 United States Census Bureau, 91 percent of households in Washington have a broadband Internet subscription, which still translates to roughly 264,000 households that have not adopted broadband services.

Given this, Internet for All in Washington plans must involve any of these three parts:

  • Expanding access of broadband networks
  • Encouraging adoption by individuals, families & businesses who do not currently have internet 
  • Securing affordable internet services

Access ensures Americans have access to high-quality, high-speed internet services to support full participation in the 21st century economy and beyond. Affordability supports the use of broadband services, especially in low-income households, which can foster a system that promotes long-term, sustainable, and affordable solutions. Adoption and digital literacy skill building makes investments to ensure Americans can participate in economy & society, reducing inequities across sectors, including healthcare, workforce & education. The delivery of resources and programs to unserved and underserved areas of the state will have a customer centric approach that will be local in its approach, yet regional in its delivery.

The Broadband Office strives to integrate the diverse voices of Washington State throughout the planning process that help ensure equitable, scalable, and sustainable outcomes. To emphasize these efforts into the planning process, the Broadband Office will organize a comprehensive public involvement plan to collect input and insight from stakeholders.

Washington State residents will have opportunities and platforms to voice their comments, concerns, and lived experiences relating to internet access and digital inclusion. There will be multiple in person and hybrid listening sessions and focus groups across the state. Internet for All in Washington will also be surveying the population to discover gaps and opportunities related to broadband services within the state. Tribal coordination and consultation will also be essential.

To assist in the statewide planning efforts, WSBO has partnered with Washington State University (WSU) Extension to aid in local level efforts to gather community input and develop local plans. WSU Extension are focusing this work through coordination with Broadband Action Team (BAT) regional offices and outreach programs. You can view their calendar, including their workshops, office hours, and community meetings, by visiting the WSU Extension Broadband Resources page.