Weather info could go dark

Do you want a seven-day weather forecast for your ZIP code? Or hour-by-hour predictions of the temperature, wind speed, humidity and chance of rain? Or weather data beamed to your cellphone?

That information is available for free from the National Weather Service.

But under a bill pending in the U.S. Senate, it might all disappear.

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.

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?”

Much more in the article.

This was published on April 21. But with my father’s illness, I didn’t get it up on the blog till today.

This is a big thing and totally motivated by greed on the part of the weather sites, particularly AccuWeather. They want us to have no other means but through them to get the weather.

Sorry, that’s not how it’s done.

There is more info here.

NOTE: Originally posted: April 2005 (recreated from mangled original bambismusings.blogspot.com)

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