NTIS drops from participation in disputed site

NTIS drops from participation in disputed site

By Frank Tiboni
GCN Staff

The National Technical Information Service has removed its logo from the usgovsearch site to end any notions that it is a government Web site.

'The site was never a government site,' said Renee Edwards, NTIS spokeswoman. 'There was a perception that it was a government site.'

Under pressure from senior Commerce Department officials, NTIS and its vendor partner on the project temporarily took the site offline last month. Commerce officials argued that the site's fees conflicted with Clinton administration policies on giving the public free access to government information.

The site's search engine, developed by Northern Light Technology LLC of Cambridge, Mass., in its partnership with NTIS, lets users access more than 20,000 government Web sites, NTIS titles and abstract data dating to 1964, and more than 5 million articles from professional and technical journals.

Both Northern Light and NTIS, a self-supporting Commerce agency, stood to receive revenue from the searches on the site.

They planned to charge a $15 daily use fee, a $30 monthly fee and a $250 yearly fee.

When Northern Light took over commercial operation of the site on June 14, the company decided to make the search engine available for free in public libraries and schools.

The usgovsearch site is accessible from the company's Web site, at www.northernlight.com.

Seeing the light

Northern Light also lowered the search engine's daily use fee from $15 to $5 but kept the monthly and yearly fees at $30 and $250, respectively.

'Northern Light used its money to develop the search engine, so they need the fees to recover for developing and maintaining the service,' Edwards said.

NTIS will not receive revenue from the Web site. Instead, the agency will charge Northern Light a lease fee and a use fee for linking its database to the search engine, Edwards said.

NTIS has similar arrangements with 20 other companies.

Administration and Commerce officials have signed off on NTIS' new policy, Edwards said.

'The positive feedback we have received from beta testing and the recent trial period has clearly demonstrated the need for this service and the value it offers to anyone wishing to gain easy, pinpoint access to the vast amounts of information produced by, for and about the U.S. government,' said David Seuss, Northern Light's chief executive officer.

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