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U.S. Improvement of Information Access Act




137 Cong.Rec. E3241-01 1991 WL 196219 (Cong.Rec.)

Congressional Record --- Extension of Remarks Proceedings and Debates
of the 102nd Congress, First Session

Material in Extension of Remarks was not spoken by a Member on the
floor.

In the House of Representatives Thursday, October 3, 1991

IMPROVEMENT OF INFORMATION ACCESS ACT

HON. MAJOR R. OWENS OF NEW YORK

Wednesday, October 2, 1991

    Mr. OWENS of New York.
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday I introduced legislation (H.R. 3459) which
is designed to assure that decisions by the Federal Government about
the vast store of information it collects, maintains, and disseminates
are fully accountable and responsive to the people who paid for that
information in the first place-all Americans.
    H.R. 3459, the Improvement of Information Access Act, is based on
the simple, irrefutable premise that Government information belongs to
the people. Americans pay billions of dollars in taxes every year to
support the Federal Government's enormous information-gathering and
-disseminating enterprise and they must be heard in the critical
decisions over access to that information. It is the people's
information and all Americans must be given the opportunity to
participate meaningfully in discussions concerning the collection, use,
and dissemination of that information.

A FRAMEWORK FOR DECISIONMAKING

    H.R. 3459 does not micromanage agency decisionmaking, and it does
not resolve many policy disputes concerning access to Government
information, including the extent to which such information should be
privatized. What the IIA Act does do, however, is establish a framework
for making policy on access to information resources which assures
continuing public participation in these critical decisions. it
emphasizes the process for making decisions, focusing on issues of
paramount concern to data users, but does not dictate the results.

WHAT H.R. 3459 WILL DO

    H.R. 3459 will encourage the use of modern information
technologies, prevent agencies from using high prices to limit access
to public information, emphasize the importance of standards in making
Government information easier to obtain and use, and require Federal
agencies to open dialogs with citizens about information dissemination
policies and practices.
    It will require Federal agencies to store and disseminate
information products and services in standardized record formats and
disseminate
 information products and services through computer networks and other
outlets, when appropriate. It would set the price of information
products and services at the incremental cost of dissemination of the
information. Royalties or fees for the redissemination of information
are prohibited.
    H.R. 3459 will also require Federal agencies to carry out an
ongoing dialog with the public about information dissemination policies
and practices. Agencies will be required to issue annual reports which
describe agency policies and practices on a wide range of information
management issues, including plans to introduce or discontinue
information products or services, the development and adoption of
standards for file and record formats, software query command
structures, and other matters which make information easier to obtain
and use, the creation and dissemination of indexes and bibliographies
that describe agency information products and services, the modes and
outlets used to disseminate information to the public, and provisions
for protecting access to records stored with older technologies.
    The public will be given an opportunity to review this report and
provide the agency with comments on a number of items, including the
types of information the agency collects and disseminates, the methods
and outlets the agency uses to store and disseminate information, the
prices the agency or other outlets charge for the information, and the
validity, reliability, timeliness, and usefulness of the information.
Federal agencies will keep these comments in a public file and will be
required annually to summarize the comments and describe their
responses.
    Finally, H.R. 3459 will also require the Archivist of the United
States and the Director of the National Institute of Standards and
Technology <NIST> to issue model standards for the timeliness by which
agencies shall provide the public with copies of press releases, agency
decisions, docket filings, and other public documents.

A SENSIBLE LIMIT ON THE PRICING OF GOVERNMENT INFORMATION

    One of the central provisions of the IIA Act is its requirement
that the price of Government information be limited to the incremental
cost of dissemination. This provision is necessary because many Federal
agencies have abandoned historic policies of charging the public no
more than duplication and handling costs for information. In some
cases, arrogant bureaucrats have set the price of Government
information at a level which was specifically designed to discourage
general public access; in other cases, agencies have tried to generate
some extra income for themselves by selling Government information. The
desire of some Government agencies to find new and creative gimmicks to
raise additional revenue is understandable in these budget-conscious
times. But nickel and diming taxpayers for Government information they
have already bought and paid for is not the way. It's like buying a new
car and then being asked to pay the car dealer anytime you want to
actually drive it. Government information belongs to the people and
they should not have to pay for it twice.
    Even more importantly, the exorbitant pricing of Government
information strikes at the heart of our democratic freedoms. The right
to know is the essence of self-government. As Christopher Harvey of the
Advocacy Institute once eloquently explained:
    The Founding Fathers created a constitutional system which mandated
that
 knowledge and ideas be allowed to flow freely. They were idealists who
believed that action flowed from knowledge, and that freedom required
that no one interfere with the knowledge that informed such action. In
short, they understood that informed citizens opinion was the
cornerstone of democratic self-government.
    All Americans have the right to know-not just to those who can
afford to pay for it.
    Instances in which agency pricing decisions have curbed public
access to information abound. For example, researchers who want to
study policies of Federal bank regulators must pay $500 for a Federal
reserve quarterly "Bank Call Report," which is stored on a computer
tape that costs around $10. One college undergraduate writing his
senior thesis was told that 40 quarters of this information would cost
$20,000. Researchers in economics say that the high price of this
Federal information has greatly restricted academic research on the
relationship between Federal regulation and bank failures. Taxpayers,
who have been asked to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on
bailouts for the savings and loan and commercial banking industries,
should be concerned that information about bank liquidity has become
very costly to obtain.
    Other Federal agencies are also attempting to cash in on public
information that has market value. The Bureau of the Census now charges
as much as $250 for a single CD-ROM of information, even though the
cost of duplicating a CD-ROM is less than $2. In some cases, agencies
use price to reward political friends and discourage political foes.
For example, the U.S. Department of the Interior has told researchers
that it would charge either zero or $250 for a tape of computer data on
oil and gas lease sales, depending upon whether or not the researchers
would agree to withhold criticism of the agency's policies.
    Congress needs to make clear to Federal agencies that the public
should pay no more than the incremental costs of dissemination to
receive Government information. A failure to do so will invite even
more abuses than those already occurring. As the Federal government
continues to deal with its perennial fiscal crisis, agencies will
scrounge for additional citizen user fees, and the public will be
nickeled, dimed and quartered for access to Government information.
Agencies will be free to use price to limit public access to databases
that are politically sensitive, and the public will be divided into
those who can afford access to Government information, and those who
cannot.
    Citizens, as taxpayers, will continue to pay the bulk of the
expense for creating Federal information, but access to the information
will be rationed to the most affluent. This outcome is outrageous and
unfair.

THE NEED FOR PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN AGENCY DECISIONS

    Federal agencies are also often insensitive to citizen requests for
new information products and services. For example, the Department of
Commerce operates the Economic Bulletin Board <EBB>, which offers
low-cost access to the public to more than 1,000 data files from dozens
of Federal agencies. While the EBB is a fine service, there is always
room for improvement. One user of the EBB recently asked the Department
of Commerce to provide access to the appendices from the Economic
Report of the President. The Department of Commerce not only ignored
the request, it also refused to allow the user to post a message asking
other users of the EBB to name economic data that they
 would like to see on the EBB. Subsequently, ninety economists and
journalists asked that the EBB be expanded to include the Department of
Commerce's National Trade Data Bank <NTDB>, a large database it
currently sells on CD-ROM. The Department of Commerce asserted that
this would be a difficult and costly task, despite ample evidence that
electronic bulletin board systems can easily be modified to support
CD-ROM technology.
    An academic research studying the impact of exchange rate movements
on manufacturing employment has on three occasions paid $700 for a
magnetic tape of county-level employment statistics from the Bureau of
Labor Statistics < BLS>. The source of the information is the BLS
ES-202 program, which collects information in connection with Federal
support for unemployment insurance. The agency asserted the high price
was justified by the costs of custom programming for the information.
The researcher asked BLS to consider offering the county- level
employment statistics as a standard product, which would lower the
price of the information to around $70, a tenth of the present charge.
The lower price would reflect the savings to BLS from avoiding custom
programming.
    According to the data user, the BLS ES-202 program is the only
source of timely employment data at the country level, and there would
be a substantial demand for the product if it was priced lower. BLS
officials are still considering this request, but they have indicated
that they do not feel obligated to create such products, regardless of
public demand, since the provision of the information lar
y to their primary mission, which is the administration of the
ES-202 program. Indeed, the $700 charge for the custom tape seems to be
far in excess of BLS's actual costs, and agency personnel privately
concede it is used as a deterrent to those who would distract agency
personnel from their primary mission.
    In another case, the Department of Commerce has long refused to
make important changes in its annual survey of building permits.
Specifically, the Department of Commerce has refused to include any
questions about the square feet of building permits issued, even though
the Department requires local governments to report the number and
value of building permits issued. According to industry and academic
research personnel, the square feet statistic is a far more useful and
valuable statistic than either the number or the value of permits.
    Recently 33 real estate professionals and economists asked Congress
to press for changes in the Department of Commerce's building permit
survey. Officials from the Department of Commerce have since asserted
that there has never been any interest in the square foot statistic,
and furthermore, that the so-called Paperwork Reduction Act prohibited
them from including questions about the square feet of building permits
because that statistic is now provided by the private sector. What the
Department of Commerce did not mention was that the private sector
source of this statistic is a single firm, McGraw Hill's F.W. Dodge
Company subsidiary, that copyrights the information, restricts
disclosure of the data, and for a history of county-level statistics
charges as much as $200,000.
    The failure of the Department of Commerce to provide a publicly
available source for this statistic has denied virtually all academic
economists and many business economists the opportunity to carry out
even the most basic research into the supply and demand characteristics
of commercial real estate markets. Real estate professionals claim that
this limited availability of the data was
 a contributing factor to the disastrous crashes in commercial real
estate markets in recent years. Research on energy consumption and
conservation has also suffered.
    In yet another example, the Securities and Exchange Commission
<SEC> is spending more than $50 million of taxpayer money to develop
the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval <EDGAR> system,
which is the SEC's new computerized records system. Academic
researchers would like to purchase elements of this database on CD-ROM
to study problems in finance and industrial organization, but the SEC
will only sell the records on paper or microfiche, which cannot be read
by a computer. Journalists would like remote online access to the EDGAR
system, but SEC officials have designed a system that will provide
public access only in three public reading rooms. The SEC has never
asked the public to describe the uses it has for the SEC's disclosure
records or allowed the public the opportunity to debate the merits of
remote access. As a result, the public and most Government officials
will have to pay commercial firms to search this Government database.
    Dozens of Federal agencies spend the taxpayer's money to produce
research abstracts. Most of these research abstracts could be searched
by a single software program, if they were sold in standardized record
formats. Despite enormous public demand for CD-ROM products and online
searching services, most agencies disseminate the information only on
computer tapes, which are difficult and expensive to use. Many agencies
claim to be ignorant of the public interest in CD-ROM products or
online searching services. The absence of a coordinated Federal effort
to provide standards for publishing such research abstracts has led to
fragmented marketing efforts, a confusing array of software interfaces,
and high prices paid to commercial data vendors who repackage this
taxpayer-funded information for sale to the public. The primary groups
that pay these high prices are school and public libraries all over
America, who are also being hit by declining state, local, and Federal
support for library services. As a result, fewer Americans can afford
to learn about research funded by their own tax dollars.
    The Patent and Trademark Office <PTO> is spending hundreds of
millions of dollars to develop its Automated Patent System <APS>, which
will provide online searching of U.S. and foreign patents to some 1,500
Federal patent examiners. Lawyers who litigate patent disputes,
scientists who want to study patented inventions and educators who want
to use patents to teach science courses have all expressed interest in
obtaining online access to this database, but the PTO has not made any
attempt to survey the public's interest. As is often the case, members,
of the public have no obvious way to provide public comments on the
agency's policy restricting access to its databases.
    In these and in many other cases, H.R. 3459 is needed to force
agencies to consider the public interest in information management
policies. The Federal government has grown large and complex. It is
extremely difficult for a professor in Texas, a school teacher in
Seattle, a journalist in New York, or an entrepreneur in Montana to
find the individual, committee, or agency that has the jurisdiction to
resolve information access issues or the inclination to listen to
suggestions from the public. Citizens should not be required to belong
to specialized trade associations or hire high-priced Washington
lobbyists to make simple suggestions or comments on agency policies and
practices related to public access to Government information.

    As stated in the findings of H.R. 3459, it is unnecessarily
difficult for citizens to make constructive suggestions about agency
policies on the dissemination of Federal information. Agencies are
often ignorant of important issues regarding information dissemination
technologies and standards, and the public interest in agency
information resources. H.R. 3459 provides straightforward framework for
the agencies and the public to communicate about agency policies for
the dissemination of Federal information resources. The bill will
ensure that Federal agencies take citizen concerns into consideration
as they manage vast Federal information resources.
    H.R. 3459 is written to be flexible concerning rapidly emerging
technologies. By requiring annual reports and public comments, H.R.
3459 will emphasize the need for ongoing attention to incremental
changes in information management policies and practices, as markets,
technologies, and standards change. It will be a tool to promote
dynamic progress toward better information management policies.
    Agencies will be free to ignore public comments and suggestions for
any reason they choose, including economic or technical feasibility,
but they will require to engage in a debate over their policies. Under
H.R. 3459 it will be much easier to the public to learn about and speak
out about agency policies. I am confident that this process will lead
to much broader public access to Government information.
    Finally, H.R. 3459 will address the problem of declining service
for routine access to agency press releases, regulatory decisions,
docket filings, and other public documents. While a decade ago it was a
simple matter to ask a Federal agency for a copy of such documents,
today it can be an ordeal. Some federal agencies take weeks to provide
copies of documents by mail, forcing the public to rely upon
high-priced private expediters for time information about Federal
agency activities. This makes it far more difficult for citizens and
public interest groups to monitor the activities of regulatory agencies
and increases the risk that regulators will become captives of the
industries they regulate. H.R. 3459 requires the heads of the National
Archives and Records Administration <NARA> and the National Institute
of Standards and Technology < NIST> to issue standards for the level of
service to be provided to the public for access to such public records.
These standards, benchmarks against which agency operations will be
judged, will make it easier for  citizens to press for improved agency
policies and practices.

HOW THE ACT WOULD RELATE TO OTHER LAWS AND REGULATIONS

    In closing I will offer a few comments about the relationship
between H.R. 3459 and the Freedom of Information Act <FOIA>, OMB
Circular A-130, and the Paperwork Reduction Act <PRA>.
    The Freedom of Information Act establishes the principle that
taxpayers are entitled to have access to documents that are in the
possession of Federal agencies, with limited exceptions due to privacy,
law enforcement, trade secret, or national security grounds. Despite
many attempts to weaken FOIA, it remains one of the most powerful
legislative tools to prevent agencies abuses in the area of the
public's right to know.
    As written, FOIA is not the solution to all problems concerning
access to Government information, however. For example, courts have
held that sections of
 FOIA do not apply to documents sold by Government agencies as
publications. More important, however, is the fact that FOIA can only
be used to request documents after they exist. The public's right to
know depends greatly upon agency policies regarding publications. Press
releases, newsletters, annual reports, and special periodicals are
often key to understanding agency operations, policies and practices.
It is far more difficult to obtain Government statistics under a FOIA
request than to purchase a standardized report or publication that
reports the information and provides explanations about the sources and
methods of the information. It is one thing for the Department of
Transportation to gather statistics regarding vehicle safety and yet
another matter for the agency to disseminate the information in a
usable format.
    H.R. 3459 specifically addresses the development of Government
information products and services and allows citizens to have greater
say over how agencies publish and disseminate information. H.R. 3459 is
needed to develop better ways of insuring the public's right to know.
    OMB Circular A-130 is the administration's policy regarding the
management of Federal information resources. This controversial
circular is best known for its ill-advised requirement that Federal
agencies place "maximum feasible reliance" upon the private sector to
disseminate Government information. While the complete language of the
circular is complex, the tone of the circular has been widely
interpreted as a call to privatize the dissemination of Federal
information resources. Among the mechanisms for doing so are
requirements that Federal agencies ensure that existing and planning
major information systems do not unnecessarily duplicate information
systems available from the private sector. The singleminded focus of
Circular A-130 on the issue of privatization was unfortunate, as the
circular lacked a framework to resolve many other information
management issues. Moreover, many Federal agencies were deterrent from
solving even simple problems about data formats and standards, in order
to avoid the appearance that the agency was considering policies that
ran contrary to privatization.
    Three proposals to reauthorize the Paperwork Reduction Act <PRA>
have contained sections that would mimic OMB Circular A-130's attempts
to discharge federal agencies from competing with the private sector.
These include H.R. 3695, which passed the House of Representatives in
1990, and S. 1044 and S. 1139, which were introduced this year. While
the language of these proposals are often marginally different from
that used in OMB's Circular A-130, they have been widely interpreted to
accomplish the same purpose. For this reason, library organizations,
such as the American Library Association, have opposed the information
dissemination sections of these bills.
    Rather than focusing on issues related to privatization, H.R. 3459
takes a broader, more balanced approach. H.R. 3459 addresses legitimate
private sector concerns about adequate public notice of agency
policies, but it broadens the occasions upon which public notice is
given and comments are received. While A- 130 and the three bills to
reauthorize the PRA only provide for public notice and comment when
issues of privatization are at stake, H.R. 3459 makes public notice and
comment an annual event. Moreover, the statutory language describes a
broad range of issues that concern the public as users of Federal
databases.

WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM H.R. 3459

    The constituency for H.R. 3459 should include all citizens and
organizations who support the public's right to the best access to
Government information that is technologically and economically
feasible. If you believe, as I do, that the Federal Government has
moved too slowly to adopt modern technologies to broaden public access
to Government information, you should support H.R. 3459. The approach
outlined in this legislation is needed to jump-start a revolution in
citizen access to public records.
    As a librarian, I am proud of the leading role professional library
organizations, such as the American Library Association, have played in
focusing attention on the important role that agency publishing efforts
play in protecting the public's right to know. This role has come
naturally to the library community, because its very mission is to
serve the public and promote the spread of knowledge. Libraries are
also the largest consumers of information products and services. They
are keenly aware of the impact of ill- advised privatization schemes
that save a few dollars in direct publishing expenditures, at the cost
of large increases in indirect expenditures on data purchases. H.R.
3459 will make it easier for this group to lend their considerable
expertise to debates over Federal information management policies.
    Another important group that has sought to expand the public's
right to know is the Center for Study of Responsive Law's Taxpayer
Assets Project. This project was started by Ralph Nader to investigate
the management of public assets, including Federal information
resources. The Taxpayer Assets Project has investigated a large number
of cases where citizen access to Government information has been
frustrated by poorly thought-out privatization initiatives and failures
to develop standards and use innovative information technologies. These
investigations have added a much needed economic analysis to the debate
over Federal information management practices, and they have changed
the way many experts think about policy options. Among the many
important contributions this group has offered is the insight that the
Federal Government itself is often a consumer of its own information,
and that the same policies that have led to access barriers for the
public have made it difficult and expensive for Government employees to
search their own records. The Taxpayer Assets Project will undoubtedly
use H.R. 3459 to ask agencies about waste and inefficiencies that often
occur when Federal agencies are forced to buy back their own data from
commercial vendors.
    Of course, many commercial firms that redisseminate Federal
information with value-added enhancements have also been strong
supporters of agency efforts to use new and innovative methods to
deliver government information to the public. The Department of
Commerce's Economic Bulletin Board is widely used by private firms that
need immediate access to time-sensitive information. Firms that sell
databases on real estate markets will use H.R. 3459 to prod federal
agencies to improve Government-funded surveys on these topics.
Developers of Geographic Information Systems will use H.R. 3459 to
encourage agencies to adopt common standards for cross-referencing
tabular data by its geographic coordinates. Small businesses will use
H.R. 3459 to identify better ways to obtain access to the National
Trade Data Bank, Customs records, transportation tariffs, IRS rulings,
and other useful Government records.
    Data vendors, citizen groups, and academic researchers will use
H.R. 3459 to tell Federal agencies about the scientific and social
value of information contained in federal computer databases, and will
encourage
 agencies to provide new standardized information products and
services. Many Federal agencies do not appreciate the value of the
information they possess. Often Federal agencies collect information
for one purpose, without any appreciation of the uses of that
information to others. For example, some citizen groups will be
interested in asking the Department of Transportation to develop very
specific information products that organize vehicle safety data in a
more meaningful way. Labor unions may ask the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration <OSHA> for information products that will be used
to investigate particular relationships between worker health problems
and job or employer characteristics. The Internal Revenue Service may
be asked to publish regular reports that show trends in income
distribution, stratified by race, gender, age or other characteristics.
    As more and more Government records become automated, new and
exciting questions should be asked about the information products and
services that should be available from Federal agencies. These new
technologies should lead to new ways of looking at information, because
more will be possible. Not only will it be cheaper and easier to
produce new information products and services, but the staggering drop
in the costs of computing and data storage have made it possible to
manipulate these data in ways that were unthinkable a decade ago.
    If Federal agencies are required to price Government information
products and services at no more than their incremental costs of
dissemination, and if the public is free to redisseminate the
information, there will always be an important role for firms that
provide value-added services. We know this is true, because for the
past 200 years, the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been
the best protection in the world for the information industry.
    Attempts to privatize the dissemination of Government information
have not led to increased public access to information. Rather, these
efforts have led to a paralysis in the Federal Government. Every time
there is an opportunity to use computer technologies to disseminate
Government information, there is first a fear the agency will be
criticized. This has crippled initiative, deterring agencies from
opening dialogs with the public. Agencies anticipate severe constraints
on their mandate to disseminate information, and they are embarrassed
to acknowledge these constraints to data users. By opening a public
dialog, H.R. 3459 will overcome this shame and bring the debate back to
the genuinely interesting questions about the management of Federal
information resources.
    If, as I expect, H.R. 3459 leads to a proliferation of new agency
information products and services, it will also lead to many new
opportunities for firms that use, analyze, and add value to the
information. It will benefit the private information industry. It will
also benefit the public who receives the information, regardless of
whether the information is obtained directly from Federal agencies or
>from private concerns that offer value-added enhancements.
    No group in America has a stronger interest in the passage of H.R.
3459 than the news media. Reporters are intensive users of Government
information, and they rely upon sources who need access to Government
information. The free flow of information is a vital ingredient to a
free press. I encourage professional news organizations to endorse H.R.
3459 and other efforts to make Government information easier and less
expensive to
 obtain.
    I look forward to working with all of these constituencies to
further refine H.R. 3459 and to press for its enactment into law.
    The text of H.R. 3459, the Improvement in Information Access Act,
follows:

H.R. 3459

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled,

 SECTION I. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the "Improvement of Information Access Act
of 1991".

 SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    The Congress finds the following:
    (1) A well-informed citizenry is essential for the well-being of a
democratic society.
    (2) Access to Government Information is essential for citizens tho
seek to make the Federal Government accountable for its actions.
    (3) The public should have timely, complete, equitable, and
affordable access to Government Information.
    (4) Federal agencies should use modern information technology for
the benefit of citizens of the United States.
    (5) Government information is a national resource that should be
treated as a public good.
    (6) Government information is a valuable economic asset that
belongs to the public.
    (7) Taxpayers pay for the creation, collection, and organization of
Government information and should not be required to pay excessive fees
to receive and use that information.
    (8) It is unnecessarily difficult for citizens to provide federal
agencies with comments and suggestions on Federal information policies.
As a result, many Federal agencies do not take into account the public
interest in the information resources they manage.
    (9) Federal agencies have been slow in developing standards for
record and file formats, software query command structures, and other
important topics that will make Government information easier to obtain
and use.
    (10) Many Federal agencies do not provide timely access to
Government information at reasonable costs.

 SEC. 3. IMPROVED PUBLIC ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT INFORMATION.

    Section 552 of title 5, United States Code, is amended by adding at
the end the following:
    "(g) Each executive department, military department, and
independent establishment shall prepare by not later than February 1 of
each year, and make freely available to the public upon request and at
no charge, a report which
 describes the information dissemination policies and practices of the
department or establishment, including-
    "(1) plans of the department or establishment to introduce new
information products and services or discontinue old ones;
    "(2) efforts of the department or establishment to develop or
implement standards for file and record formats, software query command
structures, and other matters that make information easier to obtain
and use;
    "(3) progress of the department or establishment in creating and
disseminating comprehensive indexes and bibliographies of information
products and services, including coordinated efforts conducted with
other agencies;
    "(4) the methods to be used by the public for accessing
information, including the modes and outlets available to the public;
    "(5) provisions for protecting access to records stored with
technologies that are superseded or obsolete;
    "(6) methods used to make the public aware of information
resources, services, and products; and
    "(7) a summary of the comments received from the public under
subsection (h) in the year preceding the report, and the response of
the department or establishment to those comments.
    "(h)(1) Not later than February 1 of each year, each executive
department, military department, and independent establishment shall
publish in the Federal Register, and provide in such other manner as
will notify users of information of the department or establishment a
notice of-
    "(A) the availability of the report prepared under subsection (g),
and
    "(B) a period of not less than 90 days for submission by the public
of comments regarding the information dissemination policies and
practices of the department or establishment, including comments
regarding-
    "(i) the types of information the department or establishment
collects and disseminates,
    "(ii) the methods and outlets the department or establishment uses
to store and disseminate information,
    "(iii) the prices charged by the department or establishment, or
such outlet, for the information, and
    "(iv) the validity, reliability, timeliness, and usefulness to the
public of the information.
    "(2) Comments received under this subsection by a department or
independent establishment shall be available for inspection to the
public.
    "(i) Before discontinuing an information product or service, an
agency shall-
    "(1) publish in the Federal Register, or provide by other means
adequate to inform users of information of the agency, a notice of a
period of not less than 120 days for submission by the public of
comments regarding that discontinuation,
    "(2) include in that notice an explanation of the reasons for the
discontinuation, and
    "(3) consider comments received pursuant to the notice.
    "(j) Each agency shall-
    "(1) disseminate information in useful modes and through
appropriate outlets, with adequate documentation, software, indexes, or
other resources that will permit and broadenr public access to
Government information;

    "(2) store and disseminate information products and services in
standardized record formats; and
    "(3) use depository libraries, national computer networks, and
other distribution channels that improve public access to Government
information.
    "(k)(1) Except as specially authorized by statute, an agency shall
not-
    "(A) charge more than the incremental cost of disseminating an
information product or service; or
    "(B) charge any royalty or other fee for any use or redissemination
of Government information.
    "(2) For purposes of this subsection, the incremental cost of
disseminating an information product or service does not include any
portion of the cost of collecting, organizing, or processing
information disseminated through the product or service.
    "(l)(1) The Archivist of the United States and the Director of the
National Institite of Standards and Technology shall jointly issue and
periodically revise model performance standards under which agencies
shall be encouraged to provide access to public records.
    "(2) Standards issued under this subsection shall include the
establishment of a period within which an agency, upon request, shall
provide by mail or other means a copy of any decision, rule, notice,
docket filing,  press release, or other public document of the
agency.".

 SEC. 4. STANDARDS FOR ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS.

    The Archivist of the United States and the Director of the National
Institute of Standards and Technology shall jointly issue model
performance standards for providing access to agency records, under
section 552(1) of title 5, United States Code (as added by Section 3),
by not later than 1 year after the enactment of this Act.
 137 Cong. Rec. E3241-01, 1991 WL 196219 (Cong.Rec.) END OF DOCUMENT






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