Shuttering of Government Agencies' Websites Draws Complaints

Image: Shuttering of Government Agencies' Websites Draws Complaints

Sunday, 06 Oct 2013 10:26 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Attorneys, lobbyists and others who visit government regulatory agencies' websites – only to find them blocked because of the government shutdown – are complaining that the lack of access is political rather than actually necessary.

Some agencies, like the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, have entirely shut down their websites, so the public can't access regulations and filings, reports The Hill.

Visitors are greeted with a plain white webpage that explains why the links are down and gives information about where to call if there is an emergency.

Other government agencies' websites, such as the Environmental Protection Agency,  theFood and Drug Administration are not updating their websites while the shutdown continues, but the sites still have information that was already online available.

"I can't help help wondering whether this is a political call," a Republican telecom lawyer told The Hill. "Is it really necessary to completely cut off Internet access?"

The White House last week sent out a memo  telling agencies that they need to determine whether the entire website or just parts would be shut down, reports The Christian Science Monitor,. The shutdowns depend on how much funding was cut off and how much each department relies on websites to disseminate vital information.

Congressional Republicans, though, have been complaining that the Obama administrationis finding ways to maximize the pain of the shutdown, including shuttering popular Washington, D.C., open-air monuments and national parks, along with other services popular with the public.

But closing the websites is "a source of enormous frustration for those who need this type of access to conduct business,” a media industry official said. "It's perfectly understandable why employees are furloughed in this situation but denying access to information on the website seems somewhat baffling."

The FCC and FTC were unable to comment about their sites being closed, and shutdown guides for both agencies do not order the site access cut off. They do, however, call for the agencies to keep information technology employees working to address critical IT issues.

Joe Hall, a senior staff technologist for the Center of Democracy and Technology, said it appears there is a "coordinated action" with the sites going dark, and the FCC and FTC had resources that the industry needs to access.

Related stories:

USDA Closes Website

Ted Cruz: Pass Small Budgets to Fund Needed Services

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