to do that.

We take it for granted in Boone County, and it is critically important to our day-to-day life. If our server goes down or we can't get to our e-mail, we think the world has stopped. But there are counties out there across America that don't even operate in the same realm.

I bought my dad a computer for home, so he could have Internet access and we could communicate -- but it's a long distance phone call. He sold the computer, and I don't blame him. He can't afford to pay the long distance bill. We need to give access to everyone in America. Not just those who live in larger communities. That's a real problem.

NACo developed a partnership to bring satellite broadband to rural courthouses, so they can then get people connected -- and it's at a very reasonable price. That's the kind of thing we're doing internally to try to bring this forward. We also need Congress to recognize that money needs to be put into these systems to have the private sector want to do this kind of investment in rural America.

What happens to the communities that can't keep up?

The consequences are that citizens don't have the opportunity for online services -- the ability to pay a bill from home or see the agenda for county meetings. More and more, people want to do government business from their home and on their computer.

We're leaving out whole segments of this country because they don't have that capability. It's like when we created the Universal Service Fund to support rural telephone service. I think that's where we have to go to get Internet access throughout the country, and I think it's that vital of a service.

How do you make Congress recognize that this is so vitally important? You do that through showing them the interdependency of rural America and urban America.

So the digital divide hasn't disappeared?

No it hasn't, and part of solving it is giving county officials knowledge of how to get their community wired and connected. Leaders have to take some responsibility. But there has to be some help at the federal level to get them started, I believe.

We work through our Rural Action Caucus and through public-private partnerships with corporate sponsors to find ways to elevate that message and that information, so county officials have more tools to know how to do some of these things.

When rural communities see what some larger counties are doing, they think it's out of their reach, and it really is not. You might have to do it in a different way to get some of the same results. It might not be a Cadillac, but you can sure have a Ford if you try.

Do rural counties need to take a different approach to technology?

I think they definitely will approach it differently. In Missouri, for example, every county clerk in the state has an Internet connection to the secretary of state. That may be the only computer in some courthouses when you get those very poor, rural counties.

Not every county is that lucky to have the state pay for one computer link to the statehouse. Missouri did it so election information immediately flows to the secretary of state so when you hold statewide elections, you know who got elected that night.

The state Legislature felt that was pretty important. They could recognize the value. They wanted to know if they were re-elected. So those are the kinds of things we need to do -- find examples where there is value to the Congress and value to the administration.