04/14/2014 02:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'Let Me Google That For You' May Soon Be Etched In Law


Apparently there is one thing U.S. senators from both sides of the aisle can agree on: When you can use Google to answer a question, use Google to answer a question.

In a shining moment of bipartisanship, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) last week co-sponsored the "Let Me Google That For You Act," an attempt to convince fellow politicians that a government agency isn't necessary when Google can do the job for you.

Specifically, the bill takes aim at the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), a government agency founded in the 1950s for the purpose of providing “businesses, universities, and the public timely access to approximately 3 million publications covering over 350 subject areas," according to the agency's website.

The problem is, it's not the 1950s anymore. And while NTIS might have been a valuable resource decades before the emergence of the world wide web, a majority of the information provided by NTIS -- 74 percent, according to the bill -- is available via Google (or whichever other search engine you happen to prefer), and 95 percent is available free of charge.

For example, would you rather pay the NTIS $165 for a copy of the 2010 U.S. Census atlas?


Or find the 2010 U.S. Census Atlas for free on Google?

2010 census google

NTIS loses around $1.3 million in revenue annually, according to data cited in the bill. And while that's a relatively small amount, the authors' argument is simple: "No Federal agency should use taxpayer dollars to purchase a report from the National Technical Information Service that is available through the Internet for free."

NTIS didn't immediately respond to a request for comment by The Huffington Post.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that 95 percent of NTIS reports were available through search engines. Seventy-four percent are available through search engines, and of those 95 percent are accessible free of charge.