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When putting a report online is NOT Access

For the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I decided to look up some reports that have been issued by the government in the past year. Along the way I came across some documents from the Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs. Among those documents was this report that has been written about in the media:

Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared

After searching the GPO Catalog, Open WorldCat, and Google, I have concluded that the report is only available online as a 105 MB pdf file.

Even on a high-speed connection, it could take over an hour to download this file. Using the download estimation tool from HP and figuring 1024K to a Megabyte, download times for this file can vary from 5.3 hours on a 56K modem to 10.3 hours for a 28.8K modem, still used in parts of the country.

With an hour download time even for a ISDN/DSL connection, this file is basically unviewable. If the report had been in HTML format, you could start reading before the file finished downloading, but with a pdf file you have to wait for a sizable portion of the file to load before being able to read the pdf. I can’t think of anybody who would wait 15 minutes to be able to view the first part of a report.

So, although the report is supposedly accessible because it was posted to the Internet, it is less accessible than if it had been distributed to depository libraries. If it had been, then a patron could request a copy of the table of contents or the executive summary of the report. As it is, it may as well be locked in a basement. Citizens deserve better.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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