Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/14/health_debate_overload_house_site/

Health emails from US voters overload fed website

'We're gonna need a bigger server'

By John Leyden

Posted in Government, 14th August 2009 17:23 GMT

The US debate of health care reform led to a flood of emails from constituents that swamped the House of Representatives' primary Web site, the AP reports.

Sys admins issued a warning that the house.gov site might be slow in responding on Thursday, blaming a huge flood of webmails on Thursday. Traffic data is not immediately available, but Jeff Ventura, a spokesman for the House's chief administrative officer, had no doubt that interest in the debate about health care reform - rather than some less savory reason - was behind the surge.

Congress may be in the middle of a summer recces but a debate is raging about President Barack Obama's health care reform, derided by conservative critics as un-American and smacking of socialism. A spokesman for Texas Republican representative Joe Barton said his office had received 2,761 e-mails over the last five weeks, compared to 368 health-related e-mails in the five weeks before then. The vast majority (90 to 95 per cent) were against Obama's plan.

Either way you look at it, that isn't a huge volume of messages so its hard to understand why the House's website, which like most big sites uses load balancing technology, is struggling. It could be that rather than the raw traffic load as such a bottleneck in the system is causing problems. A link in the site that allows voters to identify and write to their representative, reportedly under heavy use, might well be the culprit here. If so, a coding error is likely to be behind the problem, rather than a constraint on bandwidth or not enough horsepower behind the site servers.

The last time such a significant slowdown took place coincided with a debate in the House on a rescue package for the US economy back in January, Ventura told AP.

During the healthcare debate US politicians have described Obama's health care reform plans as "evil and Orwellian". Parallels have been drawn between Obama's proposals and Britain's National Health Service (NHS) during the debate.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan criticised the NHS as a relic of "rationing, ID cards and mass nationalisation" and far worse than US health care on a US television show hosted by Fox News. Conservative party leader David Cameron rebuked Hannan's criticism and said his views do not reflect opposition policy or his own support for the NHS

Britons angry at how the NHS has being misrepresented in the US during the US health care debate has started a #welovethenhs thread on Twitter. The sheer volume of messages on the theme reported taxed Twitter's systems. However, Twitter itself made no statement to this effect and performance problems with the overstretched site have become the norm rather than the exception over recent days, even at times when the micro-blogging service isn't fending off denial of service attacks. ®