Championing affordable Internet access

By Gail Rosenblum, Star Tribune
January 2, 2014

Andy Elofson and Casey Sorensen now expect long lines to form an hour or two before they open their doors.

Since the two men were featured in this column 18 months ago, their St. Paul nonprofit, PCs for People, has given away nearly 25,000 refurbished computers to grateful low-income Minnesotans.

Impressive, yes. But in their minds, only halfway to their goal.

In some neighborhoods, mostly in the Twin Cities’ urban core, as many as one-third of the residents still cannot afford Internet access, free computer or not.

Without that connection, it’s tough to check in with a child’s teacher regarding homework and progress, or figure out which bus to take to a job interview, or communicate with loved ones a state, or a continent, away.

But Elofson, the founder, and Sorensen, the executive director, are champs at finding a need and filling it. Through word-of-mouth a year ago, Sorensen connected with Denver-based Mobile Citizen, a high-speed mobile Internet provider with an altruistic founder.

As this new year begins, 7,000 Minnesotans are enjoying unlimited Internet access for $10 a month.

For these families, Elofson said, being wired in at home was only a dream before. “Pay for food, the heating bill, or have Internet?” he said. “At $10 a month, it’s more of a fixture.”

“We always knew [Internet service] was a need,” Sorensen added, “but we never found an avenue for offering it.”

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