Email deluge to US House of Representatives

Email deluge to US House of Representatives

The IT staff at the U.S. House of Representatives is taking emergency steps in an effort to handle a fourfold increase in the amount of e-mail that has come in via the House's web site since Sunday, when the text of the proposed Wall Street bailout bill was posted online.

The crush of e-mails from constituents about the proposed US$700 billion bailout clogged the servers hosting the Web site, making it inaccessible for lengthy periods of time on Monday, when the House voted down the bill and triggered a massive sell-off in the stock market.

On Tuesday, the House Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, which provides operations and technical support to a community of 10,000 House members and staffers, implemented a stopgap traffic management measure that seems to have eased the congestion somewhat, said CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura.

In hopes of further improving the site's performance, the CAO Wednesday was testing what, based on Ventura's description, appears to be load balancing technology from a network management vendor. If the tests prove successful, the technology will be deployed on a permanent basis, he said, while declining to identify the involved vendor.

When the site was checked by Computerworld Wednesday morning, it was accessible but only after a delay, and it appeared to be responding slowly overall. Parts of the site seemed to be functioning Wednesday afternoon. But the links from the home page to individual representatives and committees, as well as the "Find Your Representative" and "Write Your Representative" applications, were still sluggish or completely unresponsive.

Ventura said the congestion crisis began on Sunday, after the details of the proposed bailout bill were posted on the Web page of the House Committee on Financial Services. Almost immediately, there was a huge spike in traffic on the House site from people wanting to read the text of the bill. Much of that likely resulted from the fact that the House was scheduled to vote on the proposal the very next day. "The timeline was so abbreviated until Congress voted on that bill that we had a surge of people who wanted to read it and download it," Ventura said.

Bad as the increased traffic itself was, what really made things worse was that many of the people who came to the site tried to send e-mails to legislators using the embedded "Write Your Representative" program. That application "was never meant to handle the enormous load" of messages it began receiving on Sunday, Ventura said, adding that the app's performance "was so degraded that combined with the traffic, it started to clog our entire system."

That caused a massive backup in access, and would-be users were completely locked out of the site by Monday afternoon. "The alarm bells started ringing on Sunday night," Ventura said. "Monday afternoon, it got worse. It snowballed. Monday was absolutely awful."

According to Ventura, the situation was exacerbated by the fact that advocacy groups around the country were dumping large quantities of e-mails from citizens directly into the "Write Your Representative" application.

After an emergency meeting of IT staffers on Monday night, the CAO Tuesday began regulating the flow of e-mails coming from the application as a temporary solution to the problem. "We basically put a traffic cop inside the application," Ventura said. "We only let so many people use the application at a time. When traffic peaked, we shut it off and gave people a sort of digital busy signal."

The work-around may not have been the optimal way to resolve the congestion problem, but it helped to mitigate the immediate crisis and restore accessibility to the Web site, Ventura said. He added that the traffic and performance problems don't appear to have affected the delivery of e-mails to legislators from people who were able to successfully get into the "Write Your Representative" application and fill out the message form.

The traffic on the site this week has reached unprecedented levels, Ventura noted. "The 9/11 Commission report caused a spike in traffic to the point where we noticed degradation," but not to the extent of what the site has seen since Sunday, he said.

Follow Us

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. House of Representativesinternational newswall street bailout


EDGE 2024

Register your interest now for EDGE 2024!



How MSPs can capitalise on integrating AI into existing services

How MSPs can capitalise on integrating AI into existing services

​Given the pace of change, scale of digitalisation and evolution of generative AI, partners must get ahead of the trends to capture the best use of innovative AI solutions to develop new service opportunities. For MSPs, integrating AI capabilities into existing service portfolios can unlock enhancements in key areas including managed hosting, cloud computing and data centre management. This exclusive Reseller News roundtable in association with rhipe, a Crayon company and VMware, focused on how partners can integrate generative AI solutions into existing service offerings and unlocking new revenue streams.

How MSPs can capitalise on integrating AI into existing services
Access4 holds inaugural A/NZ Annual Conference

Access4 holds inaugural A/NZ Annual Conference

​Access4 held its inaugural Annual Conference in Port Douglass, Queensland, for Australia and New Zealand from 9-11 October, hosting partners from across the region with presentations on Access4 product updates, its 2023 Partner of the Year awards and more.

Access4 holds inaugural A/NZ Annual Conference
Show Comments