Campus Notebook: Members Cleared to Skype Away

Posted June 28, 2011 at 6:23pm

Tuesday’s announcement that the House will for the first time allow the use of Skype for official purposes is drawing cheers from Members who are eager to start making calls on the social network.

“Just joined Skype,” Rep. Bob Latta, co-chairman of the Republican New Media Caucus, posted Tuesday afternoon on Facebook and Twitter. The Ohio lawmaker has started brainstorming ways to use the peer-to-peer video chat and file-sharing site, spokeswoman Izzy Santa said.

“We’ll be using the account to live-stream any events, answer constituents’ one-on-one questions and maybe do types of things like,” she said, referring to the popular website that features split-screen discussions on topical issues held via video chat software.

Speaker John Boehner has used Skype for political events, but he will now start using the program for official purposes, too.

“Boehner has already used this technology to address a tea party event in Ohio on election night last year, and we’ll be looking at options for using it to connect directly with constituents in the future,” the Ohio Republican’s spokesman, Michael Steel, said.

In July, House Democratic staff will host representatives from Skype, who will brief them on how to use the program to communicate with constituents, a Democratic leadership aide said.

Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) also expressed support for the decision, saying through a spokeswoman that the program “is a very cost-effective way to communicate with her constituents.”

The program will not be entirely free, though. Premium features, such as conference calling, can have costs associated with them. Those can be paid out of the Members’ Representational Allowance, said the House Administration Committee.

House information technology staff will have the ability to monitor Skype use to make sure there are no security breaches. The House will also allow the use of another program, ooVoo.

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