5.0775 Editorial: On Information Availability (1/52)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 18 Mar 1992 19:41:45 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0775. Wednesday, 18 Mar 1992.

Date: Wed, 18 Mar 92 10:24:46 EST
From: James P Love <LOVE@PUCC>

The following is the lead editorial from _The TIMES_ of Trenton,
New Jersey, on March 16, 1992. It is excellent. This type of
support at the grass roots is extremely helpful. jamie.

Open this WINDO

We taxpayers pay for a vast amount of information that our
federal government complies. For the ordinary person, though,
gaining access to that information is a slow and difficult
process. It often requires shelling out large amounts of
additional money to commercial vendors of electronic data. Even
government agencies themselves are forced to buy back this
government information from the vendors so their staffs can use
Rep. Charlie Rose, D-N.C., has introduced a bill in Congress
that would change that situation. He wants to make it much
easier and less costly to obtain government data. His proposal
would open varied and exciting possibilities.
Rep. Rose's bill, HR 2772, would create something called the
Wide Information Network for Data Online (WINDO). This proposal
would have the Government Printing Office (GPO) establish a one-
stop-shopping window for federal databases. Through a single
business account, citizens would be able to obtain - at cost -
dial-in access to hundreds of these databases, including the
Federal Register and Congressional Record, economic statistics,
scientific research abstracts, federal court cases, U.S. and
foreign patents, Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure
documents, White House and agency press releases, State
Department press briefings, federal campaign contributions, the
Food and Drug Administration bulletin board and congressional
testimonies. The service would be provided free to 1,400 federal
depository libraries, just as the GPO provides printed documents
free to those institutions today. The GPO would be required to
receive suggestions for the WINDO "product line" every year.
Not everybody will be happy with this prospective vast
expansion of the public's ability to know what it has a right to
know. The commercial data vendors that have sprung up in a
decade of Reagan-Bush efforts to privatize public information can
be expected to oppose HR 2772. It should be noted, though, that
WINDO wouldn't necessarily put them out of business; the would
be free to buy the underlying databases and sell them to the
public, with or without value-added enhancements. The public,
however, would no longer be forced to pay commercial firms as
citizens for data they already paid for as taxpayers. Congress
should pass this bill, fast.

James Love, Director VOICE: 609-683-0534
Taxpayer Assets Project FAX: 202-234-5176
7-Z Magie, Faculty Road bitnet: Love@pucc.bitnet
Princeton, NJ 08540 internet: Love@pucc.princeton.edu