Lawmakers Push Again to Mandate Mobile-Friendly Federal Websites

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., right.

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., right. Andrew Harnik/AP

New federal websites would have to be easy to view on smartphones and other devices, according to a Senate bill.

A pair of senators want to make sure the public that relies increasingly on mobile devices can access government websites.

Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced the Connected Government Act in the Senate last week.  The bill would mandate all new federal websites be mobile-friendly, and would also call upon the General Services Administration to report agency compliance to Congress within 18 months of enactment.

The bill is the Senate companion to House legislation introduced in May by Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and co-sponsor Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to consider the House version on Wednesday.

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The legislation is necessary to accommodate a growing number of Americans who rely on mobile devices to access federal websites and information, the senators said in a joint statement. Research from Pew suggests 10 percent of all Americans are mobile-only internet users.

The government, however, has been slow to react to changing user needs. According to the nonpartisan think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, only 36 percent of 300 studied federal websites passed a speed test for loading on mobile devices, while 90 percent of those studied websites failed at least one standard for mobile friendliness, loading time, ease of use or security.

“The bipartisan Connected Government Act will help provide access to government services and information for individuals who rely on mobile technology, including low-income households who more heavily rely on mobile broadband and Americans who experience disabilities,” Hassan said in a statement.

Garder said the bill “will promote common-sense transparency and bring the government into the 21st century.”