Skype: Opening Up the Dialogue Between Politicians and Their Constituents
If you’re reading this blog, you already know something about Skype. You know that Skype is in the business of enabling people’s conversations. We’re all about increasing the ways people communicate. However, one of the places where there is not enough communication is Washington, D.C.
Republicans huddle with Republicans. Democrats huddle with their bird-feathers. Industry segments talk mostly to each other. It’s fed by a lot of money funneled through a large network of think tanks, advocacy groups, and company lobbyists. An echo chamber has taken hold and, too often, the public is left scratching their heads, wondering “D.C… can you hear me now?”
That’s why Skype was quite pleased this past spring when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) and Minority Leader John Boehner (@gopleader) began discussions with us about making Skype software available for official use by Members of Congress and their staffs. The use of Skype and other broadband-enabled applications represent an interesting opportunity to help open up new channels of communications between government officials and the people they represent – for free. Simply put, our users do better when there is more transparency and accountability in government.
For some Members, Skype video calling represents a new way of communicating with constituents as well as with other Members. It is Skype’s goal to ensure that all Members of Congress – Republicans, Democrats and Independents, including the only member of the Socialist party, Bernie Sanders – are comfortable using Skype to have direct conversations with their constituents. Video calling in the past has had a network effects problem – where one person may have it, but many others don’t. Skype has helped bring video calling to a lot of people. Today, with half a billion Skype registered users and more than 23 million users on Skype at peak times, Skype video is a widely adopted technology that is helping people around the world stay connected. While it’s interesting that the use of Skype on Capitol Hill is being debated in D.C., Skype is far from being a partisan communications tool. Skype is designed for everyone.
To this end, we want to help all members of Congress realize the benefits of using Skype. We began working with the bi-partisan House Committee on Administration to ensure that the use of Skype does not compromise the safety and security of the broadband communications networks used for official government business. This cooperative effort between Skype and the Committee on Administration is ongoing. In the meantime, Members are able to use Skype on any available mobile Internet (3G/4G) or WiFi network to improve outreach and communication with their constituents.
Skype will continue to work with both parties and with the House Committee on Administration with the objective of ensuring that Skype software is available to all and that it meets the necessarily unique security concerns of Congress.