Skype Calls on U.S. Congress

Skype is now available to members of U.S. Congress, paving the way for VOIP communications as a substitute to pressing of the flesh for politicians who can't travel for meetings.

Skype doesn't require any more legitimacy in the wake of being acquired by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) for $8.5 billion. The popular VOIP (Voice over IP) service got more anyway.

U.S. Congress members and their staff can now use the PC calling network, as well as one provided by ooVoo, to conduct video chat sessions with constituents and others with whom they are accustomed to pressing palms in person.

"We are pleased to announce that, after working with Republican leaders and various House stakeholders, members and staff can now use popular video teleconferencing services within the House network to communicate with constituents," wrote Committee on House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren, R-Calif., and House Technology Operations Team Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, in a statement June 28.

"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."

Staci Pies, who works on Skype's government relations team in North America, said this will help Congress chat with constituents who are unable to travel to Washington, D.C., to meet on Capitol Hill and engage in virtual town hall meetings from the road, among other work-related tasks.

This will reduce some of the costs associated with travel and boost productivity in the government sector, where time is duly valuable.

The move is a breakthrough for the government, which is often slow to embrace newfangled technologies until they are battle tested to secure.

Pies said Skype worked closely with the Congressional network security team to ensure that the computer calling service is used for official business.

For example, every Congressional office will have their own Skype Manager account to allow one person in each office to administer the Skype accounts. Congressional users may also configure their own privacy.

The move to use Skype hews closely with the goals of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who last December announced a new Congressional calendar to spruce up efficiency of the House.

Pies said Skype looks forward to also work with the U.S. Senate and other government agencies and lawmakers around the globe to use Skype to improve communications.

Microsoft bid to buy Skype in May and plans to insert the technology across Microsoft products such as Windows Phone and Kinect, as well as its existing unified communications services Lync and Messenger.

Skype has come under fire of late for terminating employees, only to have some of them allege questionable practices regarding their vested options.