Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) appointed Republican members of the House of Representatives to a Technology Operations Team that is tasked with giving the House a technology facelift.
Among the group's immediate priorities is to expand wireless access on Capitol Hill, overhaul the House.gov website and allow members and staff to use Skype to conduct business, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who will lead the group, told reporters Wednesday.
"A critical component of House Republicans' Pledge to America was the promise to reform Congress and restore public trust in the institution. New technology and digital media are an important part of that process and are helping to enhance the way we serve our constituents.
WiFi on Capitol Hill - Expanding the wireless network for house members was his first priority, Chaffetz told Roll Call. It is currently limited to the House chambers.
House.gov - Chaffetz said he wants to make the House Website more transparent and easier to use as well as establish standards for members and committees to follow for the release of information, documents, agendas, meeting minutes and member's voting records, according to Roll Call. Currently members and committees follow their own rules, which results in some that are nothing more than a welcome page to others that are bursting with unorganized information.
"It's been years since the site itself has been refreshed, and so we want to make the proceedings of the House as open and transparent as possible," he said.
The group is aiming to relaunch House.gov April 1.
Skype in the House - Boehner has been a proponent of Skype for more than a year. Last April he wrote a letter to then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), asking her to lift the House ban on peer-to-peer file sharing programs or grant an exception for video conferencing software. Instead member's use "costly" video conference software. According to Roll Call:
While GOP leaders have not revoked the ban on file-sharing software, Boehner's spokesman indicated something might be in the works.
"Not yet," Michael Steel said of permitting Skype, "but we're trying to encourage the use of popular, low-cost video conferencing solutions like Skype and working on a solution for the House that is safe and effective for our Members and their constituents."
A GOP aide said the group is looking into allowing Members and staff to use Skype on laptops connected only to the wireless Internet network that the House provides to the public, rather than the chamber's wired connection.
Also appointed to the team are House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), GOP Conference Vice Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who sends out Bits & Bytes, a weekly New Media clipping service highlighting New Media-related articles, and Reps. Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and Bob Latta (R-Ohio). Boehner said the committee team will include Democrats as well.
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