Bill would prohibit National Weather Service from giving away weather data.

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.

Sincerely,
Me.

12 thoughts on “Bill would prohibit National Weather Service from giving away weather data.

  1. I think guys like “Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa” need to understand that they commit a disservice to what is left of our country when they back and push legislation like this. Now I can understand the argument against ‘duplication of effort’ but that argument has been determined to be passe since anyone with a brain knows that two data sources are better than one. He best be glad I’m not running the show. This shit is a willful act of fraud waste and abuse and it urkes me to the core. This guy needs his head kicked in.  Thanks for lookin out for us Senator.

  2. AccuWeather got their quid pro qo at a bargain. Their contributions to Santorum have been about $1K a year for four years.

    Santorum is definitely creepy. Check this post at the Daily Kos. (The Las Vegas Sun article that Kos cited has expired.)

  3. So Accuweather is headquartered in Pennsylvania – does that mean that Mr. Santorum is getting kickbacks from these people for the passage of this bill?  Graft and corruption in the United States Congress?!  I am shocked and appalled.  Well, not so shocked.

    What got my attention about this story though, was that Santorum guy being a creep again.  Anyone remember a couple of years ago when this fool was running his mouth about the Supreme Court ruling on the sodomy laws and basically suggested that consenting adults had no expectation of privacy?  I direct you to Dan Savage’s sex advice column wherein it was suggested that the name Santorum be redefined to something objectionable.

    http://www.thestranger.com/2003-05-29/savage.html
    (hopefully this link works)

    Anyways, they decided to go with “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex

  4. Hmmm… cutting back or eliminating a useful Government service, and forcing us to pay private providers: smells like Republican Spirit.

  5. Wasn’t it already clear that capitalism doesn’t know/tolerate such thing as competition?
    Republicans should really change their party name to fascist party because that’s where your country/government is going at “flank speed”.

    If this bill passes result is that no one will get to see accurate data (like weather radar maps) unless he pays lot.

    I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. … corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

    —U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 (letter to Col. William F. Elkins) Ref: “The Lincoln Encyclopedia”, Archer H. Shaw (Macmillan, 1950, NY)

  6. This bill is pure BS. Weather spotters in my area are freaking on it.

    I suppose greed will win out in the end as usual.

  7. This bill is pure BS. Weather spotters in my area are freaking on it.

    If you think they’re angry just find some storm chasers!

  8. So by the same logic Accu Weather’s president Joel Meyers and Rick Santorum would close down the federal govt armed services and have private companies protect you based on how much you are willing to pay for those services.  I wonder what a lot of the less fortunate communities in the country would think about that. You, the taxpayers, have already paid for the weather data and all the other technology that gets you weather information (doppler radars, automated observing systems, some of the best computer modelling systems in the world).  The cost to you has been estimated about $3.50 per person per year, about the cost of a happy meal.  I think that is a bargain.  The NWS provides all of this infrastructure and the private companies like Accu Weather take this “free” data, repackage it, and sell it to fools who buy it!!  It is the exact same data that the NWS gives out for “free”.  They are literally biting the hand that feeds them….if the NWS shut off all the lights and walked out the door these private companies who leech off the taxpayer funded weather infrastructure would fold up the very next day.  Their logic in trying to shut down the NWS is idiotic.  I hope their greed backfires against them.  You reap what you sow.  Spread the word….

  9. …if the NWS shut off all the lights and walked out the door these private companies who leech off the taxpayer funded weather infrastructure would fold up the very next day.

    And then, George, they’d all be unemployed and be welfare leeches. Or perhaps they could find work at Republican “think” tanks.

  10. Beware of anything AccuWeather does…remember they are a private business with their own self interests.  They will do whatever they can to make more money for themselves(himself)…though this latest twist with getting into bed with Rick Santorum is scary. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that since 1999 employees at AccuWeather donated at least $5,500 to Santorum. To be fair, same with Arlen Specter but notice not as much.  See http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05116/494329.stm  We all know that corporations buy public officials through campain donations all the time and it looks to me that AccuWeather has made an influence on one idiot, but it’s sad when it touches the field of meteorology, a once innocent profession. Of course the NWS and growth of NWS products on the web hurts them.  How can it not?  Why would anyone pay for the same weather data and service twice?  Your taxes already pay for it once.  AccuWeather is threatened by the NWS because they see, as do the general public and current AccuWeather customers, that the NWS is putting out quality stuff in a timely manner.  This ain’t your father’s weather sevice anymore (though it’s been around a lot longer than AccuWeather). Back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when AccuWeather reigned the NWS was ineffiecient and slow.  They really didn’t have a public forum to distribute their products.  There was a feeble attempt with weather radio but we all know how limited that was (still is).  And by the way…why didn’t AccuWeather complain then when the NWS started NWR?  That provided a specailized service (toning warnings) that reached only certain clients (people who owned NWR).  Then along came the public internet…that wonderful levelling field.  With the growth of technology and influx of talented IT people to help meteorologists make it work the NWS has become efficient and fast in serving it’s clients (the public).  The NWS finally has a face and people are waking up and re-discovering what the NWS and e-government really can do with their money.  And this makes AccuWeather scared. No longer do they hold all the power. In a way their reaction to this dwindling gap is a good measure that the NWS is right on track and serving the public taxpayers well.  I am glad this is all coming out now.  It will help to place more focus on the NWS and solidify their presence on the web when other rational thinking senators see the good work the NWS does.  To AccuWeather: you reap what you sow.  When you bite the hand that feeds you, you get bitten back.  To NWS: continue to take the high road and provide me the good service I am paying for.  To elected officials: Big Brother is watching you.

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