Washington governor appoints new state broadband office director

Aaron Wheeler, who spent 18 years with the Suquamish tribal government, was named Washington state's new broadband director.
jay inslee
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at an event in Auburn, Washington, on April 22, 2022. (Karen Ducey / Getty Images)

After 18 years in technology roles with the Suquamish tribal government in Washington state, Aaron Wheeler is taking on a new challenge to serve as director of the state’s broadband office, the Washington State Department of Commerce announced Tuesday. 

Wheeler is tasked with leading efforts to improve rural internet access throughout the state and collaborate with other state agencies and private partners to develop and implement Washington’s five-year action plan and digital equity plan, according to a press release

“Aaron deeply understands what it means to strengthen communities and provide the tools they need to succeed,” Commerce Director Mike Fong said in the release. “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 passion for expanding broadband internet services became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic when he began working to close the digital divide for underserved populations on the Port Madison Reservation who struggled to work and attend school with limited access to the internet from their homes or public spaces, the release said. 


In his efforts to improve broadband connectivity, Wheeler deployed 135 free public wireless access locations and worked with state lawmakers to pass public retail broadband legislation that allows local governments to offer retail and wholesale broadband services to residents in tribal communities and rural areas, according to the commerce department. He’s also credited with securing a federal broadband grant for the Suquamish Tribe.

Wheeler’s first day on the job with the Washington State Broadband Office is set for March 1. 

“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.”

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