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House Republican Leadership Okays Skype On House Network [CORRECTED]

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, June 28 2011

The U.S. Capitol Building. Photo: Wikimedia

The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has approved the use of Skype and ooVoo on the House network, Committee on House Administration chairman Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.) announced this morning.

"This is another example of the new Republican majority using digital tools to better engage with and listen to the American people," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement and on the blog. "We’re committed to keeping our pledge to lead a House that is more open and that gives Americans a real-time voice in their government."

The "House network" extends beyond Capitol Hill. Computers in congressional district offices also have House of Representatives-owned IP addresses, but Lungren's announcement pertains only to the House's public wi-fi network. — so this is about more than just what happens in Washington, D.C., when Congress is in session. A congressman could connect from D.C. to a meeting in his district office where constituents are talking to staffers, for instance. But there's no telling who will use this service — or how well. Does this just mean that the congressional intern has one more line to answer — the one on Skype? Alex Howard, who had his Wheaties early this morning, it seems, has more questions in an earlier post on this announcement. The Hill covered it first.

This is the latest curve in a long arc towards modernity for government IT, and for the most digitally inclined Congress in U.S. history. The House Republican leaderships's rules adopted at the beginning of this congressional session mandate that bills should be available online for 72 hours before the come up for a vote on the floor, and accommodations have also been made to allow 21st-century gadgets like iPads onto the floor of the House. (No word yet if they can get wifi in there.) By updating lists of approved vendors for web services, they've also opened the door for members of Congress to use open-source tools like Drupal when it comes to online constituent contact. And Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is leading a bipartisan charge to update how federal spending is reported in the 21st century, among other things.

If your member of Congress makes any Skype promises in the next few days, pass 'em along.

(This post and its headline have been updated.)