Burst in Web Traffic to Joe Wilson’s Site Slows 18 Others

Posted September 10, 2009 at 1:38pm

Traffic to Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) Web site dramatically increased Wednesday night and Thursday morning, causing at least 18 other House.gov sites to slow down.The overload occurred in the aftermath of Wilson’s outburst Wednesday night during President Barack Obama’s speech, where he yelled, “You lie!— in response to Obama’s assertion that his health care plan would not cover illegal immigrants. The increased traffic began causing problems at about 7 a.m. Thursday, overloading a server that hosts at least 18 other Congressional Web sites, said Ab Emam, founder of GovTrends, a Web design company that hosts the Web sites of about 100 Members. Consequently, the Web sites of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Natural Resources Committee and other panels and Members were slow to load.To decrease the strain on the server, the company replaced Wilson’s Web site with a static page that as of Thursday afternoon read, “Due to exceptionally high traffic, this site is temporarily unavailable.—That step seems to have temporarily solved the problem, Emam said. But he added that Thursday’s traffic increase is just one example of a growing interest in politics and an overall increase in traffic to Congressional Web sites.GovTrends, he said, is in the process of installing more servers, but other factors contribute to a slowdown, including the House’s bandwidth.“The political world has just gotten a lot of interest. They’re almost becoming celebrities,— he said. “We’re doing our best to prepare.—Jeff Ventura, spokesman for Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard, said the office is in contact with GovTrends. But because the affected sites aren’t on House servers, the office can’t fix the problem, he said. Some Members’ sites are hosted by the CAO, but many hire outside companies like GovTrends.Ventura said the CAO has “load-balancing technology— to ensure it can handle increased Web traffic. But like GovTrends, the House has also has trouble with its Web sites during the past year. Last fall, for example, Congress’ consideration of a bailout bill for the financial industry spurred thousands of people to contact their Member of Congress. The increase in Web traffic overloaded the House’s servers, and the main House.gov page was almost impossible to load during the chamber’s vote on the bill.And about a month ago, the public’s interest in health care reform caused a flood of online correspondence to Member offices. That clogged up Members’ Web forms, preventing many constituents from sending e-mails through a Member Web site.