August 4, 1995
Chairman Arthur Levitt
Securities and Exchange Commission
450 5th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20549
Dear Chairman Levitt:
Since January, 1994, the non-profit Internet Multicasting Service has maintained an on-line database of U.S. EDGAR documents, as well as the full text of U.S. Patent documents, for the American public to access at no charge. This service will terminate on October 1, 1995.
Our on-line service allows keyword searches of the full text of SEC Edgar documents using the WAIS, World Wide Web, Gopher, and Electronic Mail services. Bulk transfers are available via the File Transfer Protocol. A digital signature is added to each document to allow users to verify the contents. Background material and links to additional resources are also maintained on the system. Special services allow the tracking of mutual funds, executive compensation, notification of takeovers, and other value-added services.
Since January, 1994, we've sent out over 3.1 million EDGAR documents to the public. Over 16,700 documents per day are now being distributed. Our current database of EDGAR documents is 251,000 files and 15.4 Gbytes of data.
Based on the access figures and the size of your database, it would be a trivial task to put the entire EDGAR database available on the Internet. The cost of computer equipment, routers, and disk drives is well under $150,000. Our staff maintains the EDGAR dissemination service for 0.5 FTE of a systems programmer and 0.5 FTE of a developer, for a total labor cost of under $100,000. Internet access is under $25,000/year. If you depreciate the equipment over 3 years, the total cost per year of providing Internet access to your entire database is $175,000.
Our Patent and EDGAR services has been funded partially by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Additional support was provided by our corporate sponsors, by a coalition of university research centers, and with a great deal of sweat equity and our own money added by our dedicated staff committed to this important public service.
Recently, the Congress passed and the President signed the
Paperwork Reduction Act, which becomes law October 1. This bill
was a key provision of the Contract with America and has received
the strong support of the Clinton administration. The law reads:
(1) ensure that the public has timely and equitable
access to the agency's public information, including ensuring
such access through--
(A) encouraging a diversity of public and private
sources for information based on government public information;
(B) in cases in which the agency provides public
information maintained in electronic format, providing timely and
equitable access to the underlying data (in whole or in part);
(C) agency dissemination of public information in an
efficient, effective, and economical manner;
(d) With respect to information dissemination, each
(1) ensure that the public has timely and equitable access to the agency's public information, including ensuring such access through--
(A) encouraging a diversity of public and private sources for information based on government public information;
(B) in cases in which the agency provides public information maintained in electronic format, providing timely and equitable access to the underlying data (in whole or in part); and
(C) agency dissemination of public information in an efficient, effective, and economical manner;
In case there is any doubt, the committee reports go on to stress that information dissemination is an "integral part of the information life cycle," and emphasize that the purpose of the law is to "enunciate clearly the obligation of Federal agencies to ensure effective public access to government information."
Many of us have learned from the last two years of this demonstration project. It has been remarkable to see how large a portion of the American public has interest in these key documents. It has also been remarkable to see the advances in technology that allow making dissemination to all members of the public a realistic and cost-effective goal. We hope you will embrace both the spirit and the letter of the laws recently passed by the Congress and signed by the President and that you will ensure that SEC data remains available on-line and does not get auctioned off to the highest bidder. We look forward to seeing your Internet service and will continue to be available to your staff as you make this important transition to the information age.
Vice President Gore
Hon. Ron Brown, Secretary of Commerce
Ms. Sally Katzen, Office of Management and Budget
Hon. Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House
Hon. Robert Dole, Majority Leader of the Senate
Hon. Connie Mack, Republican Conference Secretary
Hon. Thomas Daschle, Minority Leader of the Senate
Hon. Richard Gephardt, Minority Leader of the House