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I received the following response from Florida Senator Bill Nelson in response to the letter that I filed through the website at:
https://secure.eff.org/site/Advocacy?JS ... lay&id=123
"Dear Mr. Iossi:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the National Weather Service.
The weather information provided on its website is invaluable and should
not be limited.
The National Weather service is a branch of the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is the primary
source of weather data, forecasts, and warnings to the United States, and
provides information to television broadcasters and private meteorology companies to prepare their forecasts. During the hurricane season of 2004, when Florida was being battered by Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, the National Weather Service provided valuable information throughits website to the people of Florida to help them prepare for the disaster. During these hurricanes, The National Weather Service website received billions of hits, breaking a government record previously held by NASA sites after the Mars rover landing last spring.
Legislation has been introduced that would limit the ability of the
National Weather Service to offer its information to the general public.
S. 786, the National Weather Service Duties Act, introduced on April 14,
2005, would, among other things, prevent the National Weather Service from providing weather forecasts (with the exception of severe weather warnings) to the public on its website if a private company also is capable providing this information.
I oppose the National Weather Service Duties Act because it has a
variety of negative effects. This legislation would force consumers to get
on-line weather information from commercial websites that are cluttered
with pop-up ads and invasive solicitations, even though the consumer has
already paid for the taxpayer-funded National Weather Service. It would
prevent any National Weather Service forecaster from doing a one-on-one interview with a news reporter, and could even prevent the National Weather Service from providing any service on-line that is provided by a private vendor. I have written a letter to President Bush asking that he publicly oppose this attempt to push the weather service back to its pre-Internet era and limit the public's right to access government information.
I appreciate your informed policy suggestions. Please do not
hesitate to contact me again in the future."
Got another response, this one's from Diane Feinstein:
Thank you for contacting me to share your opposition to the
National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005 (S. 786). Please know that
I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
As you may know, the National Weather Service Duties Act
would clarify the duties and responsibilities of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Weather Service
(NWS). In addition, this bill prohibits the NWS from dispersing
information that is also provided by private services. NOAA's current
policy states that "the nation benefits from government information
disseminated both by Federal agencies and by diverse nonfederal parties,
including commercial and not-for-profit entities." Further, "NOAA will
give due consideration to these abilities, and consider the effects of its
decisions on the activities of these entities."
Please know that I understand your concerns about how this
legislation could impair the quality and breadth of information available
to the public. The National Weather Service Duties Act has been
referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and
Transportation. Although I am not a member of this committee, I will be
sure to keep your comments in mind should the National Weather
Service Duties Act come to the Senate floor.
Again, thank you for your letter. If I can be of further assistance,
please do not hesitate to call my Washington, D.C. staff at (202)
United States Senator
Tristan posted this on the FKA site from the Chicago Tribune:
WAR OVER THE WEATHER
It's an unseasonably fluky day when a member of Congress tries to punish a government entity for doing too good of a job. In this case, the National Weather Service apparently has been putting out too much useful information. Its graphics and Web site are more user-friendly and better-organized than ever. Its forecasts are clear and concise. And it's free. For shame!
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) argues that the National Weather Service has an unfair competitive advantage against commercial weather businesses. He makes no secret of the fact that more than a dozen of those private companies happen to be based in his state, where he happens to be running for re-election.
Santorum has a bill that would require the National Weather Service to give much of its data only to private companies like AccuWeather and WeatherBank, which repackage the taxpayer-funded information for radio and TV and the like to make their tidy profits. The bill appears to block the Weather Service from providing this information directly to the public. The public would still pay to collect this information. It just wouldn't have access to what it's paying for.
If private weather companies want competition, let them start by buying their own satellites, buoys, aircraft, upper-air weather balloons and other fancy barometric equipment. Let them create their own multimodel ensemble blends and generate their own storm warnings and small craft advisories. And then let's talk. The public pays for the National Weather Service. The public should be able to use it.
Excerpts from an editorial in the Chicago Tribune, full editorial: http://tinyurl.com/9gn4w
Is it my interpretation, or does it appear to you as well that Diane Feinstein might actually *support* Santorum's bill. That response seemed very carefully worded, and it did not in any way show support for our opposition beside her "keeping it in mind" should it come up for vote. I don't have a good feeling about that response.