Depending on the State you are seeking information from, that information from the official “State” Web Site may not be free. In New York State, information on doctors practicing there (education, lawsuits filed, professional activities) is available at no charge, while the same information is only available in Indiana upon payment of an annual fee of $50.00. Kansas charges $.25 per search to check legislation in the Kansas Register, while South Dakota has published all of its 1,200 government forms on their Web Site at no charge. Brown University has released the results of a study it did of 1,265 government Web Sites, which concludes that although federal and state Web Sites have improved their general quality of information, some state Web Sites are now charging for access to their information. This could defeat the purpose of free access to information from the Internet, and create different levels of access depending on a user’s ability, or willingness, to pay for that information. Professor Darrell West of Brown University, who conducted the study along with a team of students, notes, “E-government planners are starting to segment Web Sites. That really runs contrary to the open and transparent roots of the Internet.”
The Brown study also determined that the federal government Web Sites do a better job of providing information and services on its Web Sites than most of the states. The study also ranked state Web Sites according to the range of information available. Top ranking states were Tennessee, California, Pennsylvania, Washington and South Dakota. Top federal Web Sites were the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Labor Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Treasury and U.S. State Departments.