Sold on wireless e-mail

Communication is crucial in the job of Jim Forbes, director of communications for Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio), who serves as chairman of the House Administration Committee. Forbes has to stay in constant contact with committee members and with the press to grease the skids for Ney's agenda.

So when a terrorist attack on the Pentagon tied up telephone communication in Washington, D.C., Ney had to be able to find out what was going on. "On Sept. 11, cell phones were jammed, and my [Research in Motion Ltd.] BlackBerry was the only way we could communicate," Forbes said. "We were able to continue business. I literally can conduct business without a phone, and not even sitting at my desk."

Forbes is no technophile, but wireless e-mail has proved to be irresistibly useful. "I was given a [Palm Inc.] Palm Pilot as a gift, and I gave it to my wife," Forbes admitted.

So he was skeptical when Ney's office issued him a BlackBerry handheld device. "We've had these for close to a year," Forbes said. "I really wasn't crazy about getting it because it was another thing to carry on your hip, and I didn't want to learn. But as time went on, I couldn't live without it."

Forbes said the BlackBerry enables him to get messages from reporters so he can coordinate interview requests with Ney's schedule. "It tells me who called, their deadline and the topic," Forbes said. "I 'BlackBerry' the congressman and tell him the same thing."

When anthrax showed up in mail sent to the Capitol, congressional staffers had to improvise because they couldn't work in their offices. Some of Ney's staff members had to work in the General Accounting Office building.

"Our office was split into three locations," Forbes said. Using a BlackBerry is a great way "to let people know where you are and what you are doing." For two weeks, Forbes and his colleagues were able to work using laptops and BlackBerries.

Now, Forbes says, he relies on the BlackBerry for more than just e-mail. "I keep my personal information on there," he said. "I use everything it offers."

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