The announcement of the GPO policy shift was made by Wayne Kelley, Superintendent of Documents, in an October 4, 1994 speech before the Telecommunications Policy Roundtable in Washington, DC.
"This is a major breakthrough in the way the federal government distributes information to the public," said James Love, Director of the Taxpayer Assets Project. "Wayne Kelley and the GPO have taken a giant step towards making the government more open and responsive."
"This decision will shift some power away from corporate and wealthy elites and will improve ordinary citizens' ability to get a fair shake in Washington. It is a boon for citizens who want to keep a watchful eye on the actions of their members of Congress and the federal agencies," said Gary Ruskin, Director of the Congressional Accountability Project.
The new Internet access program will make available the entire product line from the GPO Access program, which provides online access to the Congressional Record, the Federal Register, the full text of all published versions of bills introduced in Congress, and more than 6,000 files from 25 federal agencies. The GPO Access program was created by a 1993 law, which was passed after extensive grass roots lobbying from the Internet community, much of it encouraged by TAP. The program went into operation in July 1993, but was criticized by TAP, CAP and other groups for the high prices for access, such as the $375 per year cost of a subscription to the Congressional Record or the Federal Register. The free distribution announcement came less than 3 months after GPO Public Printer Michael DiMario promised a number of public interest groups to explore ways of making the information available to individuals and small businesses.
At the Telecommunications Policy Roundtable meeting, Mr. Kelley said "...Universal access to Federal information is a government responsibility that should not be abandoned or privatized. In the process of reinventing government, we must be careful not to undermine one of democracy's main safeguards -- an informed electorate...It is just as fundamental as the right to vote."
"Accurate, up-to-date information is a prerequisite of political success in Washington," Ruskin said. "In a few days, ordinary citizens will be better equipped to scrutinize and comment on congressional and federal agency decision-making, decreasing the likelihood of government waste, fraud, abuse, mishaps, and boondoggles."
"The GPO announcement would not have occurred without the broad grassroots support from persons who sent faxes, letters and electronic mail to GPO and Congress urging support for broader access to the GPO Access product line. This is one more indication of the power of the Internet community in shaping the new information age," Love said.
"The GPO's action does not fully resolve the problem of inadequate citizen access to federal government information," Ruskin said. " Other resources should be made available on-line, including voting records of members of Congress, congressional hearing records and reports, Congressional Research Service reports, and the text of federal laws and court decisions."
The Taxpayer Assets Project is a non-profit organization started by Ralph Nader that investigates the management of government property, including government information. The Congressional Accountability Project is a part of Public Citizen. CAP advocates for campaign finance reform, term limits, congressional gift reform, cutting congressional pay and perks, and other congressional reforms.
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