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Where to go for the debate

Tonight's final presidential debate in San Diego will be covered on a number of online Web sites and services, and Webmasters hope to avoid gridlock.

Tonight's final presidential debate in San Diego will be covered on a number of online Web sites and services, and Webmasters hope to avoid the gridlock that froze much of the Internet during the last Clinton-Dole faceoff.

CBS News, which is sponsoring the debate, will provide a RealAudio broadcast of the event on the Net through its Web site. The network plans to begin coverage a half hour before the 6 p.m. PT start of the debate with various political commentators, including comedian and author Al Franken.

Online magazine HotWired is planning its own RealAudio broadcast and will hold a simultaneous online chat through a new service called talk.com for registered members. America Online is offering a similar service for members of its proprietary network.

InPulse, a polling site run by Digital Equipment that measured audience reaction to the candidates' statements in previous debates, will conduct a similar cyberpoll tonight to capture voter opinions as they are being formed.

A person participating can watch or listen to the debate in front of a computer screen and click on buttons saying she approved or disapproved of the candidates' statements. Results from the previous are posted on the site. Netizens must register at least half an hour before the debate begins to participate in the poll.

The Commission on Presidential Debates also has a comprehensive list of online debate-related services.

But those operating such sites hope to be better prepared to deal with the onslaught of online traffic that clogged the Internet during the last presidential debate.

After Republican challenger Bob Dole ended his closing statement urging voters to log on to his Web site, several sites dedicated to the debate--including his own--were nearly shut down by unprecedented usage and download delays.

MSNBC's chat room and CBS News' RealAudio feed were among those ill-equipped to handle the traffic generated by the debate.