The internet may have become as critical to our modern life as electricity was to earlier generations.

Improving online access for county residents was the aim of an Oct. 5 event hosted by KOOTASCA Community Action and led by Koochiching County and the Koochiching Technology Initiative, KTI.

The event was one of 325 held nationwide during National Digital Inclusion Week, which was Oct. 2-6. All organizations involved seek to bridge the digital divide: the gap between those who have affordable online access, skills, and support and those who do not.

About a dozen area households were provided refurbished computers that included webcams, sound bars, and Wi-Fi adapters. The pre-owned components were donated organizations and businesses in International Falls and refurbished by KTI members.

When asked why her like-new computer is important, Kelsey Walls doesn’t hesitate to explain.

“Tracking our medical billings,” she said. “My son was born with a heart defect and trying to deal with that on my cell is impossible. This will make our life easier.”

Organizers aim to do more, said Tim Gerlach, who was onsite as the American Connection Corps AmeriCorps member serving Koochiching County.

“Partnering with KOOTASCA to get computers to families with children in Head Start was our trial run,” he said.

He credits those who’ve donated their time and used electronics including Koochiching County, School District 361, Packaging Corporation of America and KTI members Justin O’Bert, Jaci Nagle and Jim Yount.

“Watch for more to come,” he said. “Dozens are being refurbished for distributing in the future.”

In addition to just-like-new computers, details were provided to recipients on how to save money on monthly internet service via the Affordable Connectivity Program as well as on availability of free Northstar Digital Literacy training the group will offer any resident wanting to improve their computer skills.

To learn if you qualify to save $30 per month through the ACP, visit For questions on refurbished devices, applying for ACP, or free computer skills training, contact the county office at 218-283-7049 or by email