The Tucson Sentinel reports that PACER generates revenues “nearly five times what it cost to run the system.”
Between fiscal years 2006 and 2010, the government collected an average of $77 million a year from PACER fees, according to the most recent federal figures available.
According to the report, in 2010 for example, PACER had an operational cost of $22 million, maintained $38 million in revenues from 2009, earned an additional $95 million in fee revenues, and thus had (95+38-22) $111 million in revenue surplus.
The Judiciary Appropriations Act of 1992 limited the use of PACER fees to “reimburse expenses incurred in providing these services.” But lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee have allowed the courts to invest in a wider range of information technology projects using fees collected from PACER. Fees for online access have risen from 7 cents to 10 cents per page.
From this graph, it seems that PACER’s operational costs are nowhere even remotely close to the fees being generated. PACER has recently increased the charge for each page downloaded from $.08 to $.10.
Update: Title corrected, see comments.