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House of Representatives Finally Permits Members to Use Skype, ooVoo

The House of Representatives announced this week that its members will finally be able to use the same video teleconferencing technology that most of the world, including my fifth grader, has been using for some time now: Skype and ooVoo. The Hill reports that in a "Dear Colleague" letter on Tuesday, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) announced the roll-out of these technologies and stated that "[d]uring a time when Congress must do more with less, utilizing low-cost, real-time communication tools is an effective way to inform and solicit feedback from your constituents."

In fairness to the House, it is not just now discovering things like Skype, and its members have reportedly been asking to use such technologies for more than a year. Until now, however, there were concerns that such communications could not be kept confidential. There was also a concern that the webcams used in video communications might somehow be turned on remotely by outsiders. These security concerns have now been resolved to to the point where the House has allowed lawmakers to use Skype and ooVoo on the House's Public Wi-Fi network.

Ars Techinca reports that on Skype's own blog, the company notes in a post entitled, "Skype is in 'Da House" that

Now, Members of Congress can reduce travel time and related costs while increasing and improving communications, transparency, and government accountability through the experience of Skype video calling. Skype enables lawmakers to hold meetings with their constituents who are unable to travel to the Congressional office, participate in virtual town hall meetings when the Member is not in her District, and build relationships and collaborate more effectively with other Members on important legislative efforts.

The Senate has not similarly embraced Skype thus far because it does not have a public Wi-Fi network. A Senate spokesperson said it does allow "desktop video-teleconferencing for offices both internally and externally through its own secure system, not through Skype." Senators like Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), however, say they manage to use Skype anyway ("in my music," he said) and encourage staff to do so, as well.

Posted by Bruce Carton on July 1, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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