AALL Urges FCC to Provide Permanent Public Access to Legal Materials

By Elizabeth

In response to Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler’s call for input on how the agency can more efficiently and effectively serve the public interest, AALL has joined with several organizations and individuals to urge the Commission to make those primary legal materials and publicly available comments hosted exclusively on their website additionally available through the Government Printing Office (GPO)’s FDsys. As noted in a letter sent this week and signed by AALL, the Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law and Policy Clinic, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Special Libraries Association, law librarians Susan Nevelow Mart* and Jane Thompson of Colorado Law, and James Jacobs of Free Government Information (FGI), doing so would facilitate continued public access in the event of another government shutdown or other circumstances that may force the Commission’s website offline. The Commission stands not only to improve the public’s access to official government information and ability to participate in governmental processes during periods of crisis, but to serve as a model for other agencies to implement the principles of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative.

As AALL described in our recent letter to GPO, during the October government shutdown, members of the public were denied access to content on federal agency websites, including primary legal materials available exclusively on the FCC website, orders not yet published in the FCC Record, and public comments available exclusively on the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) and other Commission systems. As such, librarians and patrons who needed to find resources maintained by federal agencies were often stymied. In contrast, FDsys remained accessible during the shutdown, affording the public access to authentic government information such as the Congressional Record, the Federal Register, and bills and laws. By partnering with GPO to make primary legal materials and comments accessible through the FDsys, the FCC will ensure permanent public access to its essential materials.  Doing so will allow the public to stay informed and continue to participate in the democratic process, even in times of crisis.

*Susan Nevelow Mart serves as the current chair of AALL’s Government Relations Committee.

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