Governor appoints Aaron Wheeler to lead Washington State Broadband Office – Washington State Department of Commerce

Date:

Wheeler has nearly 20 years’ experience working with Tribes and underserved communities

OLYMPIA, WA — 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.

“I’m looking forward to this critical work and all the opportunities that come with it, including partnering with communities across the state,” Wheeler said. “I’m also excited to lead the WSBO team of passionate individuals dedicated to improving internet access.”

Wheeler has a degree in information technology and administrative management from Central Washington University (2005) and an executive master of business administration from Washington State University (2020). He became passionate about improving broadband internet services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among his accomplishments, Wheeler led a team deploying 135 free public wireless access locations and a cooperative project with the Kitsap Public Utilities District, and he collaborated with state legislative leaders to pass public retail broadband legislation, which allowed an array of local governments to offer retail and wholesale broadband services to residents in Tribal and rural areas. He started working to close the digital gap for underserved populations on the Port Madison Reservation after seeing the struggles they experienced trying to work and attend school with little to no internet access from their homes or public spaces.

He also co-authored a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grant application for broadband equity and digital education on behalf of the Suquamish Tribe. The grant provided the Tribe with funding to rebuild the network infrastructures of the Suquamish Chief Kitsap Academy and Early Learning Center Head Start buildings. These upgrades will provide the facilities with new and accelerated internet access, digital learning equipment, and a curriculum designed to encourage people from Tribal and underserved groups to enter the technology field.

His work doesn’t stop when his workday ends. Wheeler also serves on two educational and technical leadership boards and is a published writer and blogger. He believes in servant leadership and encourages professional and personal growth in everyone around him. He was born in Tacoma and raised in Bremerton until age 10, when he moved to Fairbanks, Alaska. He returned to Washington to attend college. He lives in south Kitsap County with his wife Krystal, their two-year-old son Kellen, and their two corgi rescues.

His first official day on the job will be March 1.

About the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD)
The BEAD program is working to get all Americans online by funding partnerships between states or territories, tribal nations, communities, internet providers and other stakeholders to build infrastructure where needed and increase high-speed internet adoption. The federal program provides over $42 billion for infrastructure planning and implementation nationwide. Washington will receive more than $1.2 billion in funding.

Please continue to monitor the Internet for All in Washington website for the most up-to-date information on the BEAD process. You can also subscribe to email updates on the same webpage.

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Contact: Amelia Lamb, Commerce Communications, (360) 995-3386

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