The Hill on The Net
Electronic Update #1


2/22/96 - Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin establishes a home page on the Senate's Web server, the 50th member of the U.S. Senate to reach the Web. He is followed quickly by Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland. Twenty-one months after Senator Kennedy became the first member of Congress with a home page t he Senate's newest majority is reached. There are now more Senators who are on the Web than who aren't. By mid-June, 79 Senators had home pages of their own on the Web.

3/6/96 - One little-known provision that was snuck onto the Telecommunications Reform Bill was a provision that dates back to the days when of the Grant administration. The Comstock Law would effectively prohibit the transmission of any abortion related information on the Internet. Representative Pat Schroeder and Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced legislation to overturn this provison and wanted to add a hi-tech angle to the press conference at which it was announced. So, an attempt was made to broadcast the press conference (at which they were joined by Senators Snowe and Kerry) out to the Internet live via CU-SeeMe. As both the Senate and House firewalls still prevented access to CU-SeeMe, the connection had to be made using a dial-up PPP accout at 28.8 baud. All went well for the first five minutes, and most of the gathered reporters had no idea that anything had gone wrong, but despite the great picture on the large monitor in the room, the connection had dropped and nothing was broadcast to the net. Better luck next time.
For more info see:
Representative Schroeder's home page
Senator Lautenberg's home page

3/28/96 - Twenty members of Congress joined together to form a new caucus, the Internet Caucus. Joining the ranks of other congressional caucuses such as the Arms Control and Disarmament Caucus and the Western Wear Caucus which seek to promote a particular cause or industry, the Internet Caucus announced its stated principles were to:

By mid-June, the membership of the Internet Caucus had grown to fifty.
The Congressional Internet Caucus

A new web site that permits individuals to spam members of Congress with e-mail has turned up, but this one at least invites potential Net activists to explore the moral issues of doing so first.

5/9/96 - When Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee was scheduled to participate in an online forum on Compuserve to introduce his Citizens Congress Act, he decided to announce the event via e-mail and sening an invitation to everyone who has ever sent him e-mail, more than 10,000 messages. Word from his staff was that most of the feedback was positive, but about 10% of the messages received in reply were angry suggestions that the Senator work on his netiquette. Less that 30 people actually signed on to the chat, perhaps a good thing, because the Senators connection dropped at least five times during the hour, most of which was spent being filled by by an apologetic moderator named Todd. But Murphy's law seemed to be the real moderator that night.
Check the Senator's home page for info about his next attempt:
Senator Frist's home page

5/10/96 - Almost two years after Senator Chuck Robb of Virginia became the first member of the Senate to establish an e-mail address, and and eight months after his Presidential campaign made its debut on the Net, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole became the 78th member of the Senate to establish a public e-mail address. In a suprise announcement less than a week later, Dole announces his retirement from the Senate. Coincidence? Or was one week's worth of e-mail the last straw for Senator Dole?

Only two weeks earlier Dole had criticized the White House from the Senate floor, claiming that the availability of information from the Japanese Foreign Ministry on the White House's "electronic home page" was indicitive of the administrations failed trade policy. Dole was obviously unaware that the White House simply linked to a Japanese government web site while President Clinton was in Japan, rather than hosting the Japanese material directly on the White House server. But I could only wonder about what he kept calling it, electronic home page....guess I'm just too young to remember when every home page on the web was steam driven.

Read Senator Dole's statement from the Congressional Record on THOMAS.

5/24/96 - The House Subcommettee on Rules and Organization held a hi-tech hearing to examine the issues of Legislating in the 21st Century Congress. Representative Vern Ehlers testified to the committee about his own use of the Internet and about what steps the House yet needs to take to improve its infrastructure and make more information available online. A couple of the members present remained very skeptical and confessed that they have yet to establish e-mail addresses themselves, offering concerns that they'd be overwhelmed as their excuse.

At about the same time, the House Oversight committee was considering new rules that would severly restrict what members could put on their own home pages, and what kind of sites that they could link to. The proposed rules would prevent member home pages from containing any personal, political or campaign information, and prevent them from linking directly to any other site that did (so what's left?). Additionally, any information posted to the Net by the Minority staffs of a committee would first have to be approved by the Majority! I haven't had any word yet on whether these proposed rules have been adopted, but June 10th editorial in ROLL CALL concluded, "The beauty of the World Wide Web is that it makes it possible for surfers to get access to practically any information in the public domain. Congess, in keeping with that spirit, ought to make the task easier, not more difficult."
Learn more at:
House Subcommittee on Rules and Organization
Committee on House Oversight

6/4/96 - Left behind on the Senate's ftp server long after the rest of the Senate's home pages had moved to a real web server, the home page of the Senate Legal Counsel was pulled from public access completely and is now available only on the Senate's internal web server (dubbed "Webster"). It seems it was decided that the Senate's legal counsel was an internal office with no need to disseminate public information on the net, and so the plug was pulled, and this excellent homepage is unavailable to anybody outside the Senate.

6/12/96 - A three judge panel in Philadelphia barred enforcement of the Communications Decency Act, declaring that the act violated the Constitutions first amendment protection of free speech. Judge Stewart Dalzell wrote "As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from government intrusion." Several members of Congress links their own home pages to a site containing an animated GIF that announced the courts decision including some of the legislations most vocal opponents Senators Patrick Leahy and Russ Feingold, and Representative Rick White. Senator Leahy's home page
Senator Feingold's home page
Representative White's home page

That's all for now. I hope you've enjoyed this first update and look forward to your feedback. I'll write another, sooner or later.



Copyright 1996 by Chris Casey

Electronic Updates #2 & #3

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