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House Web site overwhelmed by e-mails

The Web site for the House of Representatives is sputtering under heavy traffic from citizens trying to contact Congress about the financial bailout bill.

This post was updated at 11:55 a.m. PDT with a graphic and more details.

The Web site for the House of Representatives has been overwhelmed this week by a deluge of visitors trying to e-mail their congressmen and download the financial bailout bill the House rejected Monday.

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The site on Monday saw three to four times its normal traffic, according to Jeff Ventura, a spokesman for the House chief administrative officer. The traffic has slowed down the site and made it inaccessible to some, a problem that continued into Tuesday morning.

"It's extraordinary--the highest level of Web traffic we've seen," Ventura said Tuesday. "This doesn't even compare to the release of the 9-11 Commission Report."

After the financial bailout bill was defeated in the House Monday, the number of people trying to download the bill diminished, he said, but the number of people using the House's standard e-mail form to contact congressmen continues to rise.

"We received millions of e-mails last night," Ventura said. "It was pretty staggering."

Keynote Systems, which measures Internet performance, has been tracking the availability and performance of the House site. It has found that for the past week, the problems have persisted from early in the morning on the East Coast through the business day on the West Coast. The graph below shows the site's performance was temporarily back to normal over the weekend.

The House has implemented measures to limit the amount of e-mails flowing through to congressmen during high-traffic periods. If a person is tries to e-mail his representative during one of those periods, he may receive a mechanized response indicating the system is overwhelmed and to try later. Ventura said the problem could last through the week.

"We had people working on it all night, and we still do," he said.

The House site is not the only government site that has been affected. The Library of Congress' legislation database, Thomas, has posted a notice on its front page: "Due to a high volume of traffic, some Thomas users have reported problems running searches. We are working on this issue." It also provides a direct link to the bailout bill.

This graph from Keynote Systems measures the average download performance of the House Web site in 10 cities, four times an hour over four-hour periods since September 20. Though performance was back to normal over the weekend, the site clearly was slower in the past week, coinciding with news of the bailout bill. Keynote Systems