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Forecast clouds for public weather data
Emily Gertz, 18 Jul 05

Last December, Jamais happily noted that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the department that oversees the National Weather Service (NWS), had opted for a policy to make the agency's publicy-funded weather data "open access" using xml feeds. The NWS received 1190 comments from the public in support of the policy, and only 176 against it.

Turns out the story hasn't ended there. In April, Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum introduced Senate Bill 786, The National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005. If passed into law, it'll prohibit the NWS from providing services that replicate those offered by the private sector.

Although the Act is written rather vaguely, the range of information provided free to the public by the NWS may be severely curtailed -- see what the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has to say about that. A spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson -- whose Florida constituents rely pretty heavily on NWS storm and hurricane information -- told The Palm Beach Post that the bill could push the NWS into the "pre-Internet era" -- just what last year's public comments strongly opposed.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the commercial weathercasting sector supports S.B. 786. And what's more, it turns out industry leader AccuWeather has headquarters near State College, Penn., in Sen. Santorum's home district.

If you believe in keeping this taxpayer-funded data freely available, and support NOAA/NWS's efforts to be part of the Internet era, contact your senator.

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I tried contacting my Senator. Unfortunately, he's the one sponsoring this atrocious bill. What I got back was a two page FOAD letter.

I'm sorry my statesmen have unleashed this horrid little man onto the world. Luckily he's polling very poorly now, and has a very tough campaign ahead of him. (And bonehead bills like this won't help him very much.)

Posted by: The Icelander on 18 Jul 05



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