House to Look Into Using Skype

Posted April 27, 2010 at 6:23pm

The House Administration Committee announced Tuesday that it will look into whether Members can use Skype to talk to constituents, a week after Republican leaders requested that the online phone service be allowed under House rules.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked the committee and Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard to “further explore whether Skype can be utilized in a manner that will not compromise the House information security infrastructure and policies that were implemented in 2006,” said Kyle Anderson, spokesman for Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.), in an e-mail. “That review is currently underway.”

Under House rules, Members are not allowed to use peer-to-peer networks because of the potential for security leaks — and Skype uses such peer-to-peer technology. But Skype also offers cheap videoconferencing during a time when many Members are conducting Internet “town halls” to talk with large groups of constituents.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rogers (Wash.), Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Administration ranking member Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) sent Pelosi and Brady a letter on April 19 asking for Skype to be allowed under House rules. The service, they argued, would enable Members to conduct videoconferencing with constituents at a fraction of the cost of “traditional, often expensive, video teleconferencing activities.”

On Tuesday, Boehner applauded Pelosi’s “willingness to consider our request.”

“Today’s announcement puts Americans one step closer to having the power to communicate with their elected representatives via popular videoconferencing tools such as Skype,” he said. “Americans are more engaged in their government than ever before, and direct media has played a critical role in fostering this trend.”