The Hill on The Net
Electronic Update #18


9/11/98

forget this chatter and jump straight to some starr report sites

CONGRESS LOSES ITS INNOCENCE ON THE NET
Three and a half years after first appearing on the World Wide Web, the House of Representatives lost its innocence on the Internet today and brought the rest of the Hill's public and internal web sites right along with it. Previously known more for member press releases, or committee hearing schedules, the House Web site promised and then delivered the most sought after piece of non-fiction erotica the net has ever known by posting Independent Counsel Ken Starr's report on President Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky.

For more than a day, speculation had run wild. Where will the files be posted, and how? And more importantly, will the House Web server be up to the task of the expected demand. Gradually, notices began to appear on the House's home page, and on THOMAS, the Library of Congress' Legislative Web site, that the Starr report was expected to become available sometime soon, come back later. For hours on the morning of the reports expected release, these web sites were already near impossible to reach. You could tell from the way the link on the House page kept changing, first pointing to 'www1.house.gov', and then to 'icreport.house.gov', that behind the scenes efforts were underway to try and prepare for the expected onslaught.

The document first appeared on the House's internal Web server, and from there CNN's Candy Crowley and other congressional correspondents provided a link between cyberspace and TV-land as they read directly from computer monitors in the House to the cameras that broadcast them on television monitors world-wide. Not surprisingly, the CNN home page was the first place I saw the report online. It seemed to be suffering under a heavy workload as well, but not as heavy as on the still grindingly empty hill sites.

On the other side of the hill, Senators and staff waited anxiously for delivery of the promised copy of the report that would be made available on the Senate's intranets, sparing them the need to fight the online crowds at public sites. After a seemingly endless wait copies began to arrive, not through the planned official channels, but passed along from House staffers who had by now taken the opportunity to save the files, attach them to a Senate-bound e-mail, or copy them to a diskette for delivery by sneaker-net.

Gradually, as the files propagated across the net, the demand began to be met. Available on Hill intranets and many media sites, soon even the Hill's public sites began to give up the report after only a couple of 'reloads'.

It was a long weird wired day. Congress delivered online the sort of material that many members of Congress have sought to drive off the net. The public gained direct access to the Independent Counsel's report, as well as to the White House's response, to read for themselves either as interested citizens, or giggling voyeurs. Congressional staffers surprised themselves with their ability to meet the challenge of distributing such a high demand document electronically, both on the Hill and off. And some wondered why Congress doesn't commit similar efforts towards putting other Congressional documents online, however less titillating they may be. But no matter how you look at it, the Hill on the Net will never be the same.

Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's Report Online, a few of the sites,

Copyright 1998 by Chris Casey


Electronic Updates #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 ,#8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17 & #19.


Return to The Hill on the Net