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Electronic-reply issues

[Key Words: public records; privacy; encryption; archives;
Telecommunications Plan;]

November 7, 1995

Mr. Geoffrey Commons Esq.
Special Counsel
Vermont Department of Public Service
State Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602

Dear Mr. Commons:

Thank you for your prompt reply to my document request.

Yes, I will accept your electronic correspondence as your 'written' reply.

However, this brings up several good points which I would ask that you
follow up on:
The receipt of an e-mail message does not, in and of itself, assure the
recipient of the messages' authenticity, privacy or preservation. 

On the authentication issue, it is well known that the message headers are
absolutely insufficient to authenticate the sender of a message. Digital
technologies, using encryption, are required here. Other issues are the
privacy of the message along it's long path between your desk and my office,
and the records later availability,  _in electronic format_, if requested. 

Regardless of the fact that we work only a thousand feet apart here in
Montpelier, this message has probably traversed, _in clear text_, through
Hartford CT., Albany NY., or Boston MA. prior to being exchanged between the
so called 'gov-net' and sover.net. Your reply has also probably been backed
up to a tape at the DPS, combined with other exempt public records dealing
with current regulatory litigation or consumer complaints. These storage
procedures, or lack thereof, could serve to impede future access to these
and other records by the public.

The original voice mail request and it's written reply take on some form of
public records status where, by statute, records must be cataloged so as to
be locatable if requested, and archived for a certain period of time
pursuant to an approved records retention schedule. Those schedules are
approved by the director of public records, John Yacavoni.

It occurs to me that the DPS is required under the Vermont statutes
governing the preparation of a Ten Year Telecommunications Plan, to analyze
telecommunications  technologies and the implication of their use in both
the public and private arenas. The pertinent parts of the statute are
included here for your convenience.

30 VSA 202d
                       *        *       *
        >(b)  The department, through the director, shall prepare a
telecommunications plan for the state.  The plan shall be for a 10 year
period and shall serve as a basis for state telecommunications policy.  The
plan shall include at a minimum:
>		(1)  an overview, looking ten years ahead, of statewide growth and
development as they relate to future requirements for telecommunications
services, including patterns of urban expansion, statewide and service area
economic growth, shifts in transportation modes, economic development,
technological advances and other trends and factors which, as determined by
the director, will significantly affect state telecommunications policy and
>		(2)  a survey of Vermont residents and businesses, conducted in
cooperation with the agency of development and community affairs, to
determine what telecommunications services are needed now and in the
succeeding ten years;
>		(3)  a study and evaluation of conversion to measured service as ordered
by the board;
>		(4)  an assessment of the current state telecommunications system and
evaluation of alternative proposals for upgrading the system to provide the
best available and affordable technology for use by government.
>	(c)  In developing the plan, the department shall take into account the
policies and goals of section 202c of this title, and the need for basic
service at affordable rates, improved competition among providers, the needs
of the state as user of telecommunications services, and future development
of the state.


It would then logically follow that a thorough analysis of these issues,
which are not created by, but are certainly complicated by
telecommunications technologies, should be included in the forthcoming Draft
of that plan. The department would then offer the citizens and the business
community an opportunity to recommend changes or elaboration on those draft
recommendations. These should include, but are not limited to the use of
digital signatures, authentication and encryption technologies, and last but
not least EDI or Electronic Document Interchange.

These technologies are relevant to the state as a whole as far as
positioning our citizens and businesses to participate in the rapidly
emerging era of electronic commerce (where absolute privacy protections are
essential), but are also immediately relevant to the gov-net/ school-net
implementation, and even to the workings of your Department of Public
Service and the quasi-judicial Public Service Board in order to enable
electronic filings, to expedite the backlog of dockets and to answer
official document requests.

As far as I know there is no other working group addressing these issues at
present. Possibly your 'written' reply to my public records request,
delivered via e-mail, will serve to catalyze such an effort in the context
of a PSB-DPS working group (open to the public, of course) or in one of the
amazingly effective forums in which your commissioner participates dealing
with telecommunications.

One more question: was the voice mail message which I delivered to you,
which certainly constitutes a record "created or acquired in the course of
agency business", retained, cataloged and archived? Or, if it was destroyed,
was it pursuant to an approved records retention schedule? I recall the
voice mail message to your Commissioner relating the Clyde River Dam
negotiations which prompted a headline story and wish to emphasize the
relevance of these new technologies and the management of public records.

I look forward to your thoughtful reply, or that of your Commissioner,
Richard Sedano.
Now aren't you glad you use e-mail?


Stephen Whitaker
Design Access Network
P.O.Box 1331
Montpelier, Vermont 05601-1331

[email protected]

At 06:22 PM 11/7/95 EDT, you wrote:
>November 7, 1995
>Dear Mr. Whitaker:
>     I have today received your request (left on my voice mail 
>yesterday, 11/6) to inspect certain documents.  I understand your 
>request to be for access to all staff analyses and internal or 
>external correspondence regarding 9-1-1 costing or implementation, 
>prepared or received by the Department of Public Service during 
>calendar year 1995.  Please let me know if I have misunderstood your 
>     I have relayed your request to all DPS staff, and we are in the 
>process of collecting and reviewing responsive documents.  Due to the 
>length of time covered by your request, as well as its breadth, it will be 
>a few days before I can be sure that I have collected and reviewed all 
>responsive documents.  Therefore, pursuant to 1 V.S.A. sec. 
>318(a)(5)(B), I am advising you that I expect to make the requested 
>documents available no later than Tuesday, November 14.  If I can 
>make them available earlier, or if unexpected delays are encountered, 
>I will let you know.  Otherwise, you may inspect the documents at the 
>DPS, 112 State Street, Montpelier on November 14 as provided by 
>     Since you requested my reply by e-mail, I am assuming that this 
>message will suffice as "written notice" under the Access to Public 
>Records law.  Please let me know if you would prefer a response by 
>ordinary mail.
>     Thank you for your inquiry and continuing interest in these 
>                                                           Sincerely,
>                                          Geoffrey Commons, Special Counsel

Stephen Whitaker	


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Design Access Network		   	 802.479.6118
Post Office Box 1331  			 [email protected]     		
Montpelier, Vermont     05601-1331	 PGP public key available