Being a Member of Congress means juggling a schedule that would be unthinkable for most of us. Members travel back and forth between Washington, D.C. and their home districts several times a month. This travel schedule has become more important as Members are under increasing pressure to maintain a consistent presence in their district. At the beginning of this year, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced a new Congressional calendar intended to improve efficiency of the House while also enabling Members to spend more time with their constituents. Skype users have long realized the power of real-time video calling to bring the world closer without the luxury or obligation of frequent trips to the airport.
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Administration announced that they will open up the world of Skype communications to Members of Congress and their staff. Now, Members of Congress can reduce travel time and related costs while increasing and improving communications, transparency, and government accountability through the experience of Skype video calling. Skype enables lawmakers to hold meetings with their constituents who are unable to travel to the Congressional office, participate in virtual town hall meetings when the Member is not in her District, and build relationships and collaborate more effectively with other Members on important legislative efforts.
Skype’s engineers worked closely with the Congressional network security team to ensure that Skype is used safely for official business. From my interactions with the House information security team, this was critically important to approving the use of Skype. Each of the Congressional offices will have access to their own Skype Manager account, so one central person in each office can administer the Skype accounts. In addition, Members of Congress and their staff can personally configure important privacy settings to provide the highest level of security available on Skype, and as always, the Skype software allows people to accept or block a contact, and it never “answers” a call unless instructed to do so by the user. In other words, Skype video calls are initiated only when users at all ends of the call make the affirmative choice to enable video calling.
We look forward to working with the U.S. Senate, as well as other government agencies and lawmakers around the globe to facilitate the use of Skype and other broadband-enabled applications. Skype will open up new channels of communication between government officials and the people they represent, and potentially help reduce costs, increase transparency, and improve communications, which is something I think we all agree is a good thing. As I said in my post last summer, Skype is neither a partisan communications tool, nor is it just for tech savvy Members such as Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who, prior to being elected to Congress founded several Internet companies. Millions of Skype users can’t be wrong. Skype brings the world closer, now including Members of Congress.