GOP Lawmakers: Let Us Use Skype!

Most Netbooks, even low-end ones, now have webcams enabling basic video chat over Skype or any other program. The iPad, however, does not. We wish the iPad had a camera and iChat, especially since it would make the tablet a unique communications device to rival the iPhone. Perhaps cost was a factor, even though most Netbooks manage the feat in a package under $500.

House Republicans are pushing this week for Democrats to remove blocks on their ability to use the Internet-based phone and video service Skype.

"Skype and similar technologies offer a unique opportunity to connect elected officials and their constituents while saving taxpayer dollars," Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said in a release. "House Republicans are listening to Americans and have asked to use Skype to communicate, but Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats continue to block its use. It's time that Congress join the hundreds of millions of people worldwide using money-saving communications tools like Skype."

Bachmann noted that the Federal Communications Commission last week recommended (via Twitter) that Americans use Skype and similar services to save money. Republicans argue that using Skype would save money they have to spend on costly teleconferencing.

"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. (House Republican leader John Boehner is also reportedly planning to weigh in.)

Kyle Anderson, Communications Director for the Committee on House Administration, told Hotsheet that Skype, technically, isn't banned.

"Rather, the peer2peer software which is the basis for Skype has been deemed a risk to House information systems infrastructure," he said in an e-mail. "That original determination was made in August of 2006 (when Republicans were in the Majority and in control of the House) and reaffirmed in an IT security review, the results of which were issued in December of 2009."

Anderson said at the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the policy is now under review "and we are engaged in ongoing discussions with Skype to address the 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," he said.