Republicans want Skype on the Hill

The GOP originally spearheaded the ban of P2P software

July’s heat wave isn’t the only thing getting the folks on Capitol Hill steamed. Since last week, House Republicans have pressed Democratic members to allow Skype, an Internet-based phone and video service, to operate across congressional firewalls.

According to Politico, a recent Federal Communications Commission post on Twitter that urged consumers to try the free service to save money and minutes has galvanized GOP members. House Republicans contend that the House’s block on access to Skype forces lawmakers to rely on costly teleconferencing services to communicate with their home districts.

“Skype and similar technologies offer a unique opportunity to connect elected officials and their constituents while saving taxpayer dollars,” Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.) said in a news release.

“While Americans are communicating in more direct and innovative ways every day, this Congress, as usual, is stuck in the mud,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Politico. McCarthy is a member of the House Administration Committee, which would have to approve such a change.

However, it was the Republicans in power in 2006 who first banned the use of peer-to-peer software, which is what underlies Skype, said Kyle Anderson, communications director for the House Administration Committee. Skype itself is not banned, he said in an e-mail message.

Anderson noted that the original 2006 decision was reaffirmed in an information technology security review, the results of which were issued in late 2009. “The Speaker and Minority Leader directed the Chief Administrative Officer, in conjunction with the Committee, to implement the recommendations, one of which was the blocking of P2P software apps within the House Firewall,” he wrote.

At the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the policy is now being reviewed. The House is also conducting discussions with Skype to deal with specific security concerns. “We are committed to ensuring that Members have access to every reasonable mechanism for communicating with their constituents and want to determine if Skype can be used without compromising the security of the House,” Anderson said.

Skype officials were unavailable for comment.


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