National Weather Service forecasts to be banned?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:58 PM GMT on April 26, 2005

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It may soon be illegal for the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue non-severe weather forecasts under the provisions of the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, Senate Bill S.786, introduced April 14 by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. The bill's key provision (Section 2b) states that the National Weather Service cannot provide "a product or service...that is or could be provided by the private sector", with the exception of severe weather forecasts and warnings needed to protect life and property. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is given sole authority on how to interpret what NWS products and services should be restricted. In his comments upon introduction of the bill, Senator Santorum said the bill would boost the private weather industry by reducing unfair competition from the NWS and generate cost savings to the government, remarking, "The beauty of a highly competent private sector is that services that are not inherently involved in public safety and security can be carried out with little or no expenditure of taxpayer dollars."

Why The Weather Underground opposes the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005
It is unclear from the bill's language whether the NWS would be allowed to continue making its routine public and marine forecasts. This decision would be made by the Secretary of Commerce. I believe the expertise of the NWS forecasters is unmatched anywhere in the world, and throwing away their forecasts would be a shameful waste. Although the private weather industry can and does provide routine public and marine forecasts, the quality of these forecasts is sometimes poor and would likely worsen if the NWS ceased issuing forecasts. When I participated in forecasting contests both as a student and an instructor, I discovered that while it was difficult--but not impossible--to beat the NWS forecast, it was nearly impossible to beat the "consensus" forecast--that is, the average of everyone's forecast. Private weather industry forecasters do their own forecasting, but will usually check their forecast against what the NWS says before sending it out. If the NWS forecast differs considerably, there will frequently be an adjustment made towards the NWS forecast, resulting in a better "consensus" forecast. So, with the proposed legislation, not only would we lose the best forecasts available, but the forecasts from the private weather companies would also worsen. Many sectors of our economy depend upon good forecasts, and passage of the bill might result in a loss of millions of dollars to the economy. Elimination of routine NWS forecasts would result in little cost savings to the government. The 24-hour staffing at NWS offices required to make severe weather forecasts would not change significantly, and these forecasters would need to be working all the time making forecasts in order to fulfill their duty to make severe weather forecasts. If the NWS has to keep their forecasting staff in place, why not continue to let them make their excellent forecasts? Ed Johnson, the weather service's director of strategic planning and policy remarked, "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. You don't just plug in your clock when you want to know what time it is."

Not all private industry would benefit
The Weather Underground, Inc. relies heavily on NWS forecasts and products that would likely be eliminated. Without these products, our company would likely be forced to significantly downsize. Other private weather companies are in the same situation, and smaller TV and radio stations that rely on free NWS forecasts would also suffer. And K-12 schools that rely on the ad-free weather.gov web site would be forced to eliminate some weather education offerings.The bill primarily benefits those private weather companies with large staffs of forecasters that can make forecasts for the entire country, such as AccuWeather and the Weather Channel. Legislation like this has been pushed for many years by the Commercial Weather Services Association, led by AccuWeather, a company based in Pennsylvania. CWSA and AccuWeather managed to get almost identical bill introduced in the House in 1999.

Too much power is given to the Secretary of Commerce
The decisions on which NWS services and products unfairly compete with private industry are given to one person, the Secretary of Commerce. Leaving one politically-appointed person in charge of this decision-making is unwise. A more fair solution would be to form a committee to make the decisions.

How to oppose The National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005
The National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005 is currently before the Senate Commerce Committee, and will have to make it out of there before the full Senate votes on it. The time to kill this bill is now! If you're interested, you can sign a petition opposing the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, or write your Senator if he or she is on the Senate Commerce Committee: http://commerce.senate.gov/about/membership.html

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167. Rama
8:41 AM CDT on April 28, 2005
Duncanwx, all that 2.c.1 of this bill does is say that products issued by the NWS and NOAA should be transmitted in a timely and fair manner. If that was all this bill said, then that's great. However, it does NOT say what products should be issued nor does it protect any products from being bared from being issued.

Again, the real crux of this bill is 2.b, which gives the Sec of Commerce (a politican) sole power to stop the NWS from issuing products.

As for private companies, I have no issue with them issuing their own forecasts nor with the training or expertise of their forecasters. As a matter of fact, my college roommate works for Accuweather. Experience from my college days when I was actually in a meteorology program tells me that you're more likely to get a better forecast if you concentrate on a small area and have experience with that area. The fact remains that the NWS, through their forecasters actually in local offices, is better equiped and better staffed to handle forecasts on a local level than any national weather company.
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166. rcwx
12:25 PM GMT on April 28, 2005
The issue of who can do a better job, NWS or private sector goes back more than 30 years. It seems to me that if the NWS can be locked in to providing the products they were doing in Dec 2004 when they removed the non-compete people would be happy.

I guess one aspect that I am missing is that even this site generates cash off of the free NWS products. Shouldn't some of that revenue go back to the NWS?

I have nothing against the NWS but I do feel bad for all of the college grads who do not get jobs with NWS. According to this blog and other comments elsewhere regarding S786, college grads are complete morons unless they work for NWS because only NWS can forecast the weather correctly. Again, non-NWS meteorologists have been deemed incompetent for more than 30 years.
There must be a special unction of knowledge at NWS I am not aware of.

The only way for the NWS to fullfil its core mission and add products the private sector alread provides is to add staff - which is more tax money.

I can't wait until the IRS starts offering CPA services. I bet CPA's will raise a stink about that!!
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165. hurricanemike
6:10 AM GMT on April 28, 2005
I have emailed my senator from FL, Senator Nelson as I see above that he is on the committee. I also signed the petition. I think this bill is utterly stupid. It raises serious safety issues with the American citzens. It also hurts me in my duties as a Miltary Weatherman. Even though we have DoD access to wx data, NWS data is relied on for references and back-ups.
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164. hurricanemike
6:10 AM GMT on April 28, 2005
I have emailed my senator from FL, Senator Nelson as I see above that he is on the committee. I also signed the petition. I think this bill is utterly stupid. It raises serious safety issues with the American citzens. It also hurts me in my duties as a Miltary Weatherman. Even though we have DoD access to wx data, NWS data is relied on for references and back-ups.
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163. Mightyskip
3:04 AM GMT on April 28, 2005
It looks like we all need to go back and review our high school social studies. While this bill (and yes, I've read it) does contain a potentially devastating clause -- after all, if Congress prohibits NWS from competing with the private sector, how long will it be before AccuWeather or the Weather Channel tries to force NWS out of the forecasting business -- it's a HUGE step from introducing a bill in committee to passing a law. This was "read twice and referred to committee". It may well die there (according to the Library of Congress, 70% of all bills do). It is not yet scheduled for consideration by the committee, and may never be. If considered, it needs the approval of a majority of the committee members present and voting (any of whom may propose amendments). If approved in committee, it goes to the full Senate, where the process is repeated. If it passes, it goes to the House, where the whole process is repeated. If approved there, any differences between the House and Senate versions are referred to a conference committee, where still more changes can be made. Only after the conference committee report is approved by both houses does the bill go to the President for signature. And all this has to happen during THIS session of Congress, otherwise it's back to square one for the poor little bill. No, chicken little, the sky is not falling. Senator Santorum has a LOT of work to do if he's going to make this one a law. While contacting your Senator can't hurt, it's a little premature to be mounting a major campaign to kill the bill. Our government was designed to keep special interests from easily passing legislation which favors them. A much better tactic at this point would be to let the democratic process work as it is meant to and keep an eye on it, just in case.
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162. billkodak
9:57 PM EDT on April 27, 2005
Just a suggestion, please everyone read the very cogent posts made by duncanwx and MurphyPhillips.
It appears that there are some who appear to be not so much opposed to private involvement in weather, but have an anti-business agenda as the basis of their comments.
Before praising weather forecast and data distribution in foreign countries, please note that several of the socialist countries make people PAY for anu number of weather products. In other words, there is no such things as a FREE anything.
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161. Southronbelle
1:02 AM GMT on April 28, 2005
I will keep watch on what JosephB and Murphy Phillips are saying. They seem to be the only ones that are not just jumping in with a I hate message.Lets get to the bottom of this instead always blaming the Republicans.
160. Southronbelle
1:02 AM GMT on April 28, 2005
I will keep watch on what JosephB and Murphy Phillips are saying. They seem to be the only ones that are not just jumping in with a I hate message.Lets get to the bottom of this instead always blaming the Republicans.
159. Benjad
1:30 AM GMT on April 28, 2005
The link to the blog disappeared from the frontpage. It was there this morning.. what happened.
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158. ma
8:33 PM EDT on April 27, 2005
Its amazing what a $5000 contribution to a politician can do...
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157. JosephB
4:52 PM CDT on April 27, 2005
MurphyPhillips,

Should complete privatization of data collection occur, you seem to be suggesting that NOAA and NWS are going to buy data from the private providers, and then turn around and disseminate this purchased data free of charge, so that we will be getting the same data that we do now. One problem with that...(b) forbids the dissemination of any information that could be provided by the private sector. NOAA and NWS would be forbidden from freely disseminating any data they buy, since the private sector will be engaged the activity of selling that same data.

I agree that NOAA is spending many tax dollars. But at least I have access to the valuable data collected with these tax dollars, for the cost of my Internet connection. Under this bill, once the data collection is privatized, my tax dollars will go to pay for data so that NOAA and NWS can perform (a)(1), and then if I want personal access to the data, I'll have to pay a private provider for it again.

If the Secretary of Commerce has these same powers and responsibilites today, then why do we need this bill?

Actually, your suggestion of the government setting up resources in rural areas not served properly by the private sector might be just the solution that the cellular phone industry needs. They certainly haven't been able to solve the problem on their own...
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155. MurphyPhillips
2:13 PM CDT on April 27, 2005

JosephB: Yours is one of the very few cogent and clear ANTI responses in the mix. But here's where I think there's some misunderstanding.

You might not want to use datacommunications and utilities as an example, because those industries were NEVER government-owned and suffered MOST of their problems DUE to government regulation. Deregulation of utilities and telecom has done nothing but improve services. If rural areas can't get data, remember that our buddy Al Gore who invented the internet and his mentor Mr. Clinton, who imposed a tax on EVERYONE called the Universal Services charge to get EVERYONE connected to the data network must have failed in that Big Government game.

Anyway, my whole analysis of this is based on the idea that NOTHING that the NOAA/NWS provides to the public will change, as there is nothing in the legislation that indicates that it will, since provision 5(b)(2) gives wide latitude.

If the private sector can do some or all of the data collection, acquisition, observation, etc. and provide those data to the NWS/NOAA for a fee (that would presumably be less than what it costs the latter to collect it itself), then the NWS/NOAA is paying less for data it currently pays more for, and the products and services they offer will continue to be available at NO CHARGE to its audience.

The whole argument of "Them darned Republicans are trying to take away my free wolliwog and give that money to Senator Jones!!!" is just plain silly, overly emotional, and displays a lack of knowledge of how our economy functions. No, the Feds are trying to make it cheaper for them to make that free wolliwog.

Like it or not, the NWS/NOAA is spending lots of taxpayer money in these same states TODAY to get this data. They pay salaries, they built hugely expensive WSR Doppler radars (that come from private companies), have an incredibly expensive and outdated data transmission infrastructure (that are maintained by private companies), they have weather stations, etc. etc. Aside from salaries, All of that money STILL goes to private corporations, and thus still into the economy.

If, due to this legislation, more of that money goes to corporations, that money STILL goes into the economy! It's just different people's paychecks.

If the private sector cannot collect enough data to provide the NOAA/NWS with reliable product for the "Red Zones," then there is NOTHING in this bill that prevents them from maintaining their own resources there.

Another argument is being bandied about that says it's giving too much power to the Secretary of Commerce. The Secretary has these same powers today! There's no change in his/her responsibility proposed in this legislation.

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154. atwood5
3:26 PM EDT on April 27, 2005
Please keep an eye on this and keep us informed. If it gets out of committee, the public needs to know about this and really put the pressure on.
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153. JosephB
11:59 AM CDT on April 27, 2005
Ok...I read the bill. Given the statement of item (b) and the definitions in item (f), and some knowledge of who is sponsoring this legislation, I've come to the conclusion that this bill is clearly an attempt to move the vast majority of the functions performed by NOAA and NWS to the private sector.

Item (f) not only covers analysis and formatting of data, but it also covers "sensing", or the data acquisition itself. It will be claimed, if this bill should pass, that NEXRAD, along with all the NWS observation stations, and any other data acquired and dissemintated by NOAA and NWS can be acquired and dissemintated by private sector companies. Thus, collecting data will put NOAA and NWS in violation of the competition clause of this bill, and all data collection will be transistioned to private companies. In order to comply with its duties under (a)(1), NWS will buy data feeds from the private companies, and issue watches, warning, and advisories based on this data.

This will devastate small companies and private individuals who rely on the wealth of free data provided by NOAA and NWS for their livelihood. Or, are we to believe that private companies will freely disseminate their data, like NWS does now?

The result will be analogous to electric utility service in the 1930's, and cellular phone service today. There will be a plethora of data providers for the metropolitan areas, and minimal data, or perhaps even no data, for rural areas. As another poster pointed out, another piece of Republican legislation that devastates the "Red" states.

Not every beneficial and necessary sevice that our country requires can be be provided affordably to the end users at a profit, which makes these services poor candidates for privatization. NOAA and NWS fit this category, and that's why they should remain in the realm of the Federal government.
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152. CT21405
5:37 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
I wrote a letter to John Kerry (he was closest) to urge him NOT to support this bill. As a park ranger theres no way to turn on the TV and watch the weather channel or log onto accuweather in the middle of the day.We need NWS weather broadcasts!
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150. featheredghost
3:02 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
It's fascinating that yet another right-wing initiative will do the most harm to the Red (Republican) parts of the country. I work in very Blue New York City, which gets plenty of attention from the Weather Channel and Accuweather. I live in rural upstate New York, where "And now for your local weather on the eights" means a scroll through current conditions in major cities and local radio weather might as well be yesterday's. By contrast, Wunderground gives me a wealth of real-time information, including Doppler radar, satellite images, local amateur station readings -- the resources are literally astonishing. Any curtailing of Wunderground's services would be a terrible loss. In fact, I would gladly pay considerably more for Wunderground. And please note, free-market radicals: Wunderground is a business, like Senator Santorum ostensibly supports. It's just not in Pennsylvania.

Write the Commerce Committee, whether your Senator sits on it or not!
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149. piperdawg
3:10 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
I do support cutting useless government spending; however, weather forecasting is not in this category. People use forecasts to avoid danger days ahead. If the NWS can only issue statements when danger is eminent, than there is less ability to be cautious and preventative in encountering dangerous weather situations. I know I wonít make plans to go to the beach if I there is a chance there is going to be a hurricane a week from now. Planning to avoid danger is not only smart; it saves the lives of victims and rescuers alike. Not to mention the money that can be saved from rescue operations if people arenít in harms way to begin with.
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148. kjt
8:17 AM PDT on April 27, 2005
Link post for full text of bill:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:s786:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:s786:
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147. kjt
5:40 AM PDT on April 27, 2005
If it's not broken... What are the problems this bill trying to address?

This is a time when the government should be focusing on fiscally responsible activities and not creating more beaurocracy.


If you're interested in the full text of the bill:
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146. carwashguys
3:03 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
We us this site daily to assist us in our car washing business. We have found this to be the most accurate weather information available. The 10 min max updates on satalite pictures is very helpful. I agree with others in that we don't need the publicity and sensationalism added to the local forcast we get from our local meteorologist. We prefer the NWS information. Keep up the good work.
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145. Elioar
3:00 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
DO NOT MAIL YOUR REP, FAX!!! Snail mail is not nearly as effective as it once was given the security concerns on the hill. Use the fax machine for the best results, then follow-up with a call.
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144. deef
3:02 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I've called Santorum's office, and just e-mailed Sen. Boxer (I live in CA) and voiced my opposition and pointed out that WU has offices in San Francisco, too.
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143. raouljan
2:51 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
Sure looks like another goverment giveaway for which the Republicans are well known.

Have the taxpayers front the money to get something going ... then give the service away to business so they can charge for a product for which they had no up front expense.

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142. pete17c
2:17 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
What about WX radio ??? Did everyone forget this ??? I doubt that private industry will find it 'profitable' to put out forecasts out for remote, low-population areas that many of us use for recreation.
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140. bjdsrq
2:30 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
IMO, Senator Santorum is only interested in helping AccuWeather's business (a Pennsylvania based company) and is jeopardizing our way of life. Unlike many other govt expediture programs, NWS products are something ALL US citizens benefit from. Maybe the Senator should opt to cut out the "over-porked" congressional pension packages instead. Also, an investigation should be done to see what relationship Sen. Santorum has with AccuWeather or it's principals. Looks to me there is a conflict of interests.
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139. AZTrojan
2:27 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
I'm for anything that reduces the size of government, but as is pointed out this probably will not have much impact.

I will write my senator.
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138. hotxwx
1:51 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
Please, please, please go read this bill for yourselves. Some on this blog are defending this bill, and I guess it is their right to do so. However, after reading the bill and the post article, I can find absolutely nothing good about it.

Living in rural west texas, we can't depend soley on severe weather forecasts to defend ourselves from weather and fire events. It takes continual monitoring even when things appear to be "sunny and warm."

I agree with the quote in the post article that said, "we have already paid for this data once, why pay for it again?"

I hate politics. People are people whether Democrat or Republican. Some decisions will be good, some bad, regardless of affiliation. The moment you begin to decide things on a liberal or conservative basis, you give up your free will to use your brain and decide for yourself. I would identify myself as mostly conservative, Republican, but am proud to say this bill stinks and should be voted down.

Thanks Wunderground, for taking the data that I have already paid for and packaging it into a product that I can use, for a price I can still afford. $0.00 (I don't mind the ads!)
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137. MurphyPhillips
8:51 AM CDT on April 27, 2005
Ooops, I hate it when I do double negatives, I intended to say:

The aviating public is expected to see nothing but improved service...
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136. MurphyPhillips
8:17 AM CDT on April 27, 2005
Bongo/BillKodak: It's apparent that most of the respondants just don't get it.

It's reasonable to expect that this would allow and/or require the NWS to OUTSOURCE some of its functions to the private sector, while retaining its ability to provide ALL the products it currently provides.

Under the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act, passed in 1998 ("The Clinton Years), requires such measures be investigated and instituted where practicle.

The latest case in point was that the FAA this year began outsourcing the Flight Service Stations that are under the DOT. Lockheed Martin is being paid BY the FAA to modernize and operate the Flight Service Stations, and is expected to save taxpayers in excess of $2.2 Billion over 10 years. The aviating public is expected NOT to see nothing but improved service as a result.

In short, the service is being outsourced to BY the public, to PRIVATE corporations that can prepare and deliver the product more efficiently.
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135. bAdkins
1:39 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
Doesn't the government have anything better to do than worrying about the weather? Obviously they have too much time on their hands. They need to be working on more important things like taking back control of an insurance industry dictating people's medical needs or getting our men and women home safely from overseas. I check weather underground every day. It gives great and accurate forecasts and I never have a problem getting access to it. Shame on the government!! I can't wait for the next election. I think it is time to take out the garbage!!
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133. john697
1:38 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
My problem with Accuweather has always been their use of sensationalism to get clients. An example is Joe Bastardi's winter forecasting of always a big east coast storm on the horizon. These storms almost never materialize.

Of course, I oppose the Senate bill. Doesn't sound to me that anyone at Accuweather or The Weather Channel is starving. They will always have their media, energy, and agriculture clients.

Why fix something that isn't broken?
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132. LBBTB
1:33 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
I really hate that the government in this country has nothing else better to do than to pick on someone who chooses to report the weather. We have terrorist that are plotting this very minute how they want to destroy the nation that we live in, they choose to pick on the weather man. Needless to say that bill is a bunch of BS, weather pro sites have never hurt anyone. Maybe all the forecasters need to get together and forecast a warm sunny day in Dallas, TX when really there is going to be a tornado outbreak...Then maybe they could appreciate the job that these guys do. But realistically, I will be writing a letter telling them to focus on my $2.25 gas price and not on something so trivial.
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131. crushinator
12:59 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
Ok, folks... Here's my understanding of the deal here.

What the NWS does now: Collect and disseminate weather information both in the form of forecasts and in the form of the raw data (provided in easily accessible formats). This information is all currently provided for free.

What wunderground, TWC, Accuweather, and your local weatherman (or weatherwoman) do now: Read this information provided by the NWS (along with any weather data collected by their respective organizations, i.e. many TV channels have their own provate weather radar system.) They then interpret this information and (sometimes) provide their own, independant forecasts based on their reading of the NWS data & forecasts (and their own data, if any).

How these companies make money: Because they are essentially re-packaging what is fundamentally free information, they must add some value of their own if the public is going to want to pay them. This means either tabulating data into useful forms and layouts (like this site), providing more carefully reasoned forecasts (like a very well-seasoned local weatherman might be able to do...?), or make that data available in a more widespread medium (like the Weather Channel in your hotel room).

What the proposed legislation would do: change the way in which the data gathered by the NWS is disseminated. The bill is fuzzy about what, precisely, the changes will be, but in essence it would eliminate any "product or service ... that is or could be provided by the private sector" (subect to certain conditions).

Also, "the term `product or service' means a product, service, device, or system that provides, senses, or communicates meteorological, hydrological, climatic, solar, or oceanographic data, forecasts, or other similar information"

Posters to this thread speaking out in defense of the bill are correct that this would eliminate "high-end" products like, perhaps, animated radar displays, etc.

However, the bill could also be read to say that the "low-level" data repackaged by sites like this one would no longer be available in conveniently accessible formats over the web: "Data, information, guidance, forecasts, and warnings shall be issued ... through a set of data portals designed for volume access by commercial providers of products or services"

Does this mean no web access to raw data (which is relied on by sites like this one)? Well, I for one think it at least could be read this way. Because there could certainly exist commercial data portals that are not web-based... and web-based access to the raw data is certainly a service that could be provided by the private sector.

So what this would mean, essentially, is that the business of selling weather data would change. Yes, rudimentary information from the NWS would still be available for free, but the raw data would become the exclusive domain of commercial interests. This means, essentially that sites like Accuweather, and, in theory, this one, would basically be able to charge a lot more, because they would not only be adding value by re-packaging something that's otherwise free, but they would also be providing the only means of access for the public to that information.

So the value they're selling is not only in what they add to the data, but is in the data itself.

Because, as a taxpayer, I'm already paying for the collection of that data, I don't like the idea of giving commercial interests the exclusive right to profit from providing access to that data. I feel that I would, in essence, be paying for the information twice - once to collect it (through my taxes), and again to access it (through proprietary websites).

I say, let the data remain free of cost, and let the private sector make its money by using its ingenuity to come up with ways to add value to that data. Don't restrict access to the data for the sole reason that the data theoretically *could* be charged for in transmission.

Ok, I'm done. I hope this is helpful to someone!
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130. LBBTB
1:33 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
I really hate that the government in this country has nothing else better to do than to pick on someone who chooses to report the weather. We have terrorist that are plotting this very minute how they want to destroy the nation that we live in, they choose to pick on the weather man. Needless to say that bill is a bunch of BS, weather pro sites have never hurt anyone. Maybe all the forecasters need to get together and forecast a warm sunny day in Dallas, TX when really there is going to be a tornado outbreak...Then maybe they could appreciate the job that these guys do. But realistically, I will be writing a letter telling them to focus on my $2.25 gas price and not on something so trivial.
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129. deherf
12:56 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
This is totally ludicrous! Once again government is stepping in to support the private sector in ways the private sector should not be supported.

I remember when private businesses took pride in meeting or exceeding the quality of product from the public sector without help, influence or other support gleaned from the public sector to "get it done". The private sector used to work harder to provide better information, etc. than the public sector and in the resulting competitive spirit of it all the product from both "sides" improved tremendously! Such was the way with competition. One gets better, the other strives to improve and regain the lead and so forth.

Not so today! Nope, the "privates" moan, belly-ache, whine and cry their way to the top of mediocrity by crying "foul" when free public information is available that is more detailed than that information they provide. They claim it's an abuse of "their" tax dollars. They no longer try to improve their product to keep up... instead they take a different approach. They try to choke off the free public access to sources of information, forcing those who used to use those public sources to go elsewhere, pay a fee and get inaccurate or inadequate information.

I for one rely on public sources of info for a multitude of things. I also use reliable private sector competitors to get a good "cross section" for my research, etc. I've noticed the "reliability" and accuracy of the private sector info has dropped tremendously unless you're willing to pay premium fees beyond the initial, basic sign up fees.

Now, to use our own elected officials to wean us away from free publicly provided information is not only a travesty it's outright criminal collusion!

If this ever comes about I will vow never to subscribe to any private weather (or other private informational) source. I'll go back to going outside, looking to the west, looking to the east, throwing a leaf into the air to see which way it blows, looking up into the sky to check out the building clouds, give the weather the ol' wet thumb test go back inside and announce to those who are in the need to know that the weather's either not changing or changing.

The whole idea behind Senate Bill S.786 is another senseless grab by the greedy, unachievers who can't adequately compete.

My thoughts, for what they're worth.
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128. Kohana
1:31 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
I am concerned, yet busy. Could anyone provide a link to relevant talking points to assist in a letter writing campaign. "Cut & paste" paragraphs would be cool, or a complete letter. Thank you.
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127. Pauliemon
12:31 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
I love the few pro statements comming from people in this forum. You've proven the point to me this country has really gone down the tubes. The NWS works well. Leave it alone. Nothing in the world of weather related sites really has to change as far as i'm concerned. You have to ask yourself, why this guy is wasting time on this bill? And i'm sorry, privatizing never works. The govt., unlike what most people think, does do a better job in most areas than a private company.
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126. filgar
12:50 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
Hmmm... such a diverse set of responses. My two main objections to this bill are 1: Although it does appear to ensure the continued flow of information to the public, it does also appear to place the decision concerning what and how much in the hands of one individual, the Commerce Secretary. Given the fact that this position is subject to the whims of the prevailing administration of the day, I'm less than confident that we will continue to see the excellent information from the NWS unrestricted. 2: My comment in the petition will suffice here - " I would like to make it perfectly clear that I as a private citizen and taxpayer, am opposed to this legislation. One of the mandates of a governmental system is the protection of its citizens. To this end, the NWS is an invaluable asset and is one of the better examples of my taxes being well spent. As a scientist and amateur weather forecaster, I have compared the information from the various private organisations and have consistently found the NWS to be superior in all aspects. I would be very displeased if I could not get my daily feed of information from them. With all of the serious issues facing this country that the congress can do something about (energy and tort reform are at the top of my list), I find it hard to beleive that you've got time to waste considering the pro's and con's of how the NWS's information should be resticted. Please drop this bill and move on to more important issues. Thank You."
I also find wunderground.com to be very useful and have supported it for a long time. It gives me a single page from which I can quickly access many different features and I gladly pay the modest fee for the lack of ads. I see no problem with both the NWS and private groups co-existing and even competing. And since they are doing just that, and surviving, why do we need legislation to deal with what, from my perspective, isn't a problem?
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125. Duncanwx
1:18 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
Rama and others...please take the time to READ THE BILL. Especially the subsection which states the following... "* (1) IN GENERAL- All data, information, guidance, forecasts, and warnings
received, collected, created, or prepared by the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration or the National Weather Service shall, to the
maximum extent practicable, be issued in real time, and without delay for
internal use, in a manner that ensures that all members of the public have
the opportunity for simultaneous and equal access to such data, information,
guidance, forecasts, and warnings."...

There is no danger whatsoever in losing any free forecast content from the NWS. these products you people are all worried about will still be 100% FREE to the public. Everyday weather entusiasts will see little or no change in how you access your data.
124. Pauliemon
12:31 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
I love the few pro statements comming from people in this forum. You've proven the point to me this country has really gone down the tubes. The NWS works well. Leave it alone. Nothing in the world of weather related sites really has to change as far as i'm concerned. You have to ask yourself, why this guy is wasting time on this bill? And i'm sorry, privatizing never works. The govt., unlike what most people think, does do a better job in most areas than a private company.
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123. deherf
12:56 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
This is totally ludicrous! Once again government is stepping in to support the private sector in ways the private sector should not be supported.

I remember when private businesses took pride in meeting or exceeding the quality of product from the public sector without help, influence or other support gleaned from the public sector to "get it done". The private sector used to work harder to provide better information, etc. than the public sector and in the resulting competitive spirit of it all the product from both "sides" improved tremendously! Such was the way with competition. One gets better, the other strives to improve and regain the lead and so forth.

Not so today! Nope, the "privates" moan, belly-ache, whine and cry their way to the top of mediocrity by crying "foul" when free public information is available that is more detailed than that information they provide. They claim it's an abuse of "their" tax dollars. They no longer try to improve their product to keep up... instead they take a different approach. They try to choke off the free public access to sources of information, forcing those who used to use those public sources to go elsewhere, pay a fee and get inaccurate or inadequate information.

I for one rely on public sources of info for a multitude of things. I also use reliable private sector competitors to get a good "cross section" for my research, etc. I've noticed the "reliability" and accuracy of the private sector info has dropped tremendously unless you're willing to pay premium fees beyond the initial, basic sign up fees.

Now, to use our own elected officials to wean us away from free publicly provided information is not only a travesty it's outright criminal collusion!

If this ever comes about I will vow never to subscribe to any private weather (or other private informational) source. I'll go back to going outside, looking to the west, looking to the east, throwing a leaf into the air to see which way it blows, looking up into the sky to check out the building clouds, give the weather the ol' wet thumb test go back inside and announce to those who are in the need to know that the weather's either not changing or changing.

The whole idea behind Senate Bill S.786 is another senseless grab by the greedy, unachievers who can't adequately compete.

My thoughts, for what they're worth.
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122. Rama
7:54 AM CDT on April 27, 2005
For people that don't think this is a big deal, focus on section 2 paragraph b subsection 1. This basically says the Sectretary of Commerce, a politician not a scientist, can tell the NWS NOT to issue a product that s/he feels that the private sector can handle. The ONLY things exempt from what s/he can order the NWS to stop issuing is under section 2 paragraph a subsection 1, which is severe weather forcasts and warnings, and products demanded by international aviation agreements.

With both Accuweather and The Weather Channel and countless other media outlets issuing their own local forecasts, there's nothing in this bill to stop the politican from ordering the NWS to stop issuing their forecasts. As it is in the bill now, it almost encourages them.
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121. Tuvanova
1:10 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
The weather affects all of our lives, whether we choose to recognize the fact or not. The NWS forecasts, especially the technical discussions, provide vital information for both our professional and avocational lives. To be without such forecasts, to deal with the awful loom of privatization in this area of public information that affects all of our lives, seems so contrary to our membership in a democratic society.
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120. celesguy
12:53 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
This hurts meteorology students NATION WIDE!!! I am a student in meteorology at Purdue University and absolutly all of our data stems directly from the NWS!!! Shutting this down would mean research losses and the demise of our weather processor. Without the data from the NWS, our weather processor won't work making forecasting a thing of the past for Purdue Students. Who forecasts long hand on scratch paper? I guess I will if this bill passes.
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119. erocko
12:45 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
Searching through several news and information sites I find the same comments like this:
http://www.computerworld.com/governmenttopics/government/legislation/story/0,10801,101345,00.html
...copy this link to your browser to read.

I would say this bill is a big win for wunderground! Pass it and wunderground willl continue to profit. Not passing the bill and wunderground will lose poeple to the NWS free site. I find myself there as much here.
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118. ilanidrac
12:39 PM GMT on April 27, 2005
One of the greatest attributes of the NWS is the ability of the public to monitor and evaluate their "discussions" and analysis behind the daily forecast -- I'm sure that this will not be the case with private sector forecasts!
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.