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November 8, 2018

WGU Washington Chancellor Hosts Panel Discussion to Improve Broadband Access for Rural Communities

KENT – Today, WGU Washington Chancellor Dr. Tonya Drake led a panel discussion at the 2018 Rural Jobs Summit in Longview, Washington. The topic was “Broadband and Technology” and examined the lack of broadband internet service in many rural communities statewide.

“Access to fast, reliable internet is vital for WGU Washington students, as well as the success of the businesses where they work,” said Drake. “Currently, hundreds of thousands of Washington residents don’t have broadband service in their communities. It’s called the digital divide, and today’s discussion – involving leaders from both the private and public sectors – was a step toward bridging that divide.”

Joining Drake on the panel were Gordon Cook, the Director of Field Network Engineering for Verizon Northwest; John Flanagan, a Policy Advisor in the Office of Governor Jay Inslee; George Henny, Co-Chief Executive Director at Whidbey Telecom; and Jason McCracken, a Customer Operations and Experience Manager at T-Mobile.

An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people in rural Washington lack access to broadband. The panel discussed the economic effect of that digital divide and what can be done to solve the issue. Additionally, they explored how expanding our broadband infrastructure will impact the workforce and strengthen rural businesses’ competitive position in the broader marketplace.

The 2018 Rural Jobs Summit was put on by the Association of Washington Business (AWB) and held at Lower Columbia College. The event brought together lawmakers, employers and business leaders to address regional inequalities impacting the state. In addition to broadband, the Rural Jobs Summit explored job creation, housing, access to capital, and other topics.

WGU Washington was created, in part, to be a high-quality, low-cost educational option for underserved student populations – including rural learners who might not live near a traditional, brick-and mortar college campus. As the state’s only legislatively-endorsed, online university, WGU Washington utilizes the most advanced, distance-learning technology to deliver first-rate bachelors and master’s degree programs in high-demand fields.

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Joan Mitchell, VP Public Relations

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