If congress and the folks at companies like AccuWeather get their way then you’ll soon be paying twice for your weather information. The National Weather Service has been making it’s forecasts and data available online for quite awhile now and you’ve already paid for it via your taxes. You can go to the NWS website and look up forecasts for your area or have them beamed to your cell phone at no extra cost and it seems that some folks want to put a stop to it:
The bill, introduced last week by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would prohibit federal meteorologists from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, which offer their own forecasts through paid services and free ad-supported Web sites.
Supporters say the bill wouldn’t hamper the weather service or the National Hurricane Center from alerting the public to hazards — in fact, it exempts forecasts meant to protect “life and property.”
But critics say the bill’s wording is so vague they can’t tell exactly what it would ban.
“I believe I’ve paid for that data once. … I don’t want to have to pay for it again,” said Scott Bradner, a technical consultant at Harvard University.
He says that as he reads the bill, a vast amount of federal weather data would be forced offline.
“The National Weather Service Web site would have to go away,” Bradner said. “What would be permitted under this bill is not clear — it doesn’t say. Even including hurricanes.”
Yet another Republican putting the interests of businesses ahead of American citizens. Guess which state AccuWeather is based in? Last I checked the Weather Channel and AccuWeather are far from being unprofitable so the only motivation for this bill is pure greed. Not that they aren’t trying to come up with some bullshit reasons why this is a good idea:
The decision of what information to remove would be up to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez — possibly followed, in the event of legal challenges, by a federal judge.
A spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the bill threatens to push the weather service back to a “pre-Internet era” — a questionable move in light of the four hurricanes that struck the state last year. Nelson serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has been assigned to consider the bill.
“The weather service proved so instrumental and popular and helpful in the wake of the hurricanes. How can you make an argument that we should pull it off the Net now?” said Nelson’s spokesman, Dan McLaughlin. “What are you going to do, charge hurricane victims to go online, or give them a pop-up ad?”
But Barry Myers, AccuWeather’s executive vice president, said the bill would improve public safety by making the weather service devote its efforts to hurricanes, tsunamis and other dangers, rather than duplicating products already available from the private sector.
“The National Weather Service has not focused on what its core mission should be, which is protecting other people’s lives and property,” said Myers, whose company is based in State College, Pa. Instead, he said, “It spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year, every day, producing forecasts of ‘warm and sunny.’”
Can anyone tell me of any recent hurricanes or tornadoes that came as a total surprise because the National Weather Service was busy predicting trivial weather elsewhere and thusly not fully focused on the dangerous weather? Give me a fucking break. They make it sound like predicting one is a completely separate task from predicting the other when it’s all part of the same task. Oh, and the National Weather Service doesn’t predict tsunamis, you dumbass!
Too bad Santorum let the real motivation slip out while promoting the bill:
Santorum made similar arguments April 14 when introducing his bill. He also said expanded federal services threaten the livelihoods of private weather companies.
“It is not an easy prospect for a business to attract advertisers, subscribers or investors when the government is providing similar products and services for free,” Santorum said.
This isn’t about public safety, this is all about money. The National Weather Service doesn’t provide it’s data for free at all. You and I have already paid for it via our taxes and it’s one of the few governmental agencies that seems to be a pretty good value for the money.
NOAA has taken no position on the bill. But Ed Johnson, the weather service’s director of strategic planning and policy, said his agency is expanding its online offerings to serve the public.
“If someone claims that our core mission is just warning the public of hazardous conditions, that’s really impossible unless we forecast the weather all the time,” Johnson said. “You don’t just plug in your clock when you want to know what time it is.”
Myers argued that nearly all consumers get their weather information for free through commercial providers, including the news media, so there’s little reason for the federal agency to duplicate their efforts.
“Do you really need that from the NOAA Web site?” he asked.
Dear Mr. Myers: Fuck you. I already paid for it once. I don’t see the need to pay you directly or indirectly to have access to it. If you can’t handle that then close up shop and find something else to peddle. Asshole.