October 1, 2008
The House is limiting e-mails from the public to prevent its websites from crashing due to the enormous amount of mail being submitted on the financial bailout bill. As a result, some constituents may get a ‘try back at a later time’ response if they use the House website to e-mail their lawmakers about the bill defeated in the House on Monday in a 205-228 vote.
“We were trying to figure out a way that the House.gov website wouldn’t completely crash,” said Jeff Ventura, a spokesman for the Chief Administrative Office (CAO), which oversees the upkeep of the House website and member e-mail services.
The CAO issued a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday morning informing offices that it had placed a limit on the number of e-mails sent via the “Write Your Representative” function of the House website. It said the limit would be imposed during peak e-mail traffic hours.
“This measure has become temporarily necessary to ensure that Congressional websites are not completely disabled by the millions of e-mails flowing into the system,” the letter reads.
Ventura likened the problem to a bottleneck scenario on a highway, where multiple lanes of traffic converge into a smaller set of lanes. In that situation, some cars get to move forward while others have to remain at a standstill.
“What we had to do was basically install the digital equivalent of a traffic cop,” Ventura said. “It was a question of inconveniencing everybody or inconveniencing some people some of the time, while servicing other people the other half of the time.”
Member offices began to notice an overwhelming number of e-mails last week as the economy roiled and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, or “bailout package,” became of interest to millions of Americans. All the clogs in the traditional e-mail service have since been resolved, according to the CAO.
However, Ventura ventured that the problems on the House website might not be resolved until the economic package was finalized.
“We think we will see this spike [in Web traffic] until when and if another bill is hammered out,” Ventura said. “There’s going to be a lot of interest in this all week.”
The error message in its entirety reads:
“The House of Representatives is currently experiencing an extraordinarily high amount of e-mail traffic. The Write Your Representative function is therefore intermittently available. While we realize communicating to your Members of Congress is critical, we suggest attempting to do so at a later time, when demand is not so high. System engineers are working to resolve this issue and we appreciate your patience.”