The Oregon Legislature convened Feb. for its even-year short session, which can last for a maximum of 35 days.
As lawmakers debate controversial cap and trade, gun and healthcare bills, lobbyists are busy as well—apparently streaming internet content that has nothing to do with the job at hand.
The Legislature provides free internet service for lawmakers and the lobbyists, who outnumber the electeds more than ten-to-one.
Most lobbyists in the building belong to an association called the Capitol Club, which sets lobbying rules and coordinates with legislative administration.
This week, Dale Penn, Jr., the chairman of the Capitol Club's technology committee, informed his colleagues that the excessive use of non-legislative internet websites was hoovering up much the Capitol's broadband capacity.
In a Feb. 15 email to Capitol Club members, Penn said that the excessive usage was forcing the implementation of a new password or "prompt" to rein in excessive streaming.
Here's how Penn explained the change to his colleagues:
Why do we need a prompt?
The simple reason for changing the Capitol’s “open” environment to a “captive portal” is security and WIFI bandwidth issues. Legislative Admin’s IT department is now blocking certain websites in the Capitol area on the free public wifi – these include Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, dating sites, gambling sites and gaming sites. They are retaining that new block at this time. Since implementing the changes, IT has seen over 322,000 attempts to access streaming video sites like Amazon, Hulu, HBOGO and others. That is within the last three days. Before this change, users were seeing significant reductions in bandwidth and access issues and they hope this will assist with connectivity within the building going forward. Video streaming of non-business related content was consuming 40% of the available bandwidth, which negatively impacted folks trying to do work while connected to the public wireless.
Penn points out that lots of people use the Capitol's free WiFi, including legislative staff, members of the public, state agency personnel and journalists.
"The changes implemented were an attempt in increasing security and reducing bandwith by all users," Penn said in a text message. "Not just lobbyists."
The short session—with or without Hulu, HBO and less mainstream web fare—is scheduled to continue through March 11.