Washington (CNN) – House members and their staff will now be able to use video conference technology like Skype to communicate with their constituents back in their districts when they are in Washington or with each other when Congress is not in session.
House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren and Utah Rep Jason Chaffetz, (R-Utah), who heads up the House panel overseeing technology issues, announced the chamber's ban on the technology was lifted in a joint statement on Tuesday. Earlier concerns over technology and security appear to have been worked out.
"During a time when Congress must do more with less, we believe that these low-cost, real-time communication tools will be an effective way to inform and solicit feedback from constituents," the statement said.
Last spring then-GOP leader John Boehner and several other House Republicans including Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting that the House permit members to use video conferencing to facilitate communication among members and their constituents. Republicans said using the technology could cut down on travel costs and help members reach out to more constituents through video town hall meetings.
But House Democrats who controlled the chamber at the time indicated that a security breach with "peer-to-peer communications" like Skype raised concerns about using the technology and new protocols needed to be put in place before the technology could be allowed.
Lungren and Chaffetz indicated security issues were worked out with Chief Administrative Officer, which supports computer use in the House, "We thank the CAO for ensuring that Members and staff can utilize these services while maintaining the necessary level of IT security within the House network, and look forward to identifying additional technological solutions to communication and transparency roadblocks."
The announcement covers Skype and ooVoo, another video conferencing technology, but Lungren said his committee is also taking a look at ways to support other forms of technology.
Last month, Microsoft announced that it was acquiring Skype, based in Luxembourg, for $8.5 billion. On June 16, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice approved the deal, saying it did not violate federal antitrust provisions.
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