New bill proposes to ban public NWS forecasts & data

Can't find this posted anywhere else here. I think this belongs in this forum; if not, mods, feel free to move it wherever it ought to go.

This was linked today off the WX-CHASE email list:

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/content/...1a_wx_0421.html

The text of the bill is here:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:S.786:

The list of committee members reviewing this bill (should you feel like writing them) is here:

http://commerce.senate.gov/about/membership.html

(Thanks to stormtrack member Darren Addy for hunting the committee list down)
 
As long as I get the NWS forecast discussions/watches/warnings, and model, satellite, and nexrad data for free, I don't really care about zone forecasts or the other products. I will still refuse to use AccuWrong and The Gardening Channel (oops, I mean The Weather Channel) as well. Local news is better...
 
We heard some of these argument at Air Mass 2005 in Wichita a week ago. Though Meyers (and some others) are a bit paranoid and vocal in their concerns, they do bring up valid points. NWS has cited budget shortfalls in getting some really good research funded and some existing programs off the ground. If a happy median could be found between free or low cost weather data and NWS's amounts of research, the Private Sector and Government could share their resources rather than duplicating many of the products going on.

I did ask a vendor about the cost of data and delivery. Thier product vs, what I currently have or could have if I were to go with a cell data plan. My solution was way less expensive (and many of you thrift minded chasers will understand this) and almost as reliable and their way more expensive product. For my puropses, my solution was better.

Sorry, I won't go into the Vendor name.

I do agree that duplication doesn't need to happen. I feel that the Governement may have overstepped a few bounds in what information gets out over the airwaves electronically. After all, why pay Company X when you can get the information for free? Here is a great example of this. Company X provided very good low cost accessable radar data. I am reasonably sure that someone was making a living from this. Now here comes NOAA opening up their radar data servers and now everyone has the same data. Company X goes belly up because no one wants to pay cash for something they can get elsewhere for free. This is only a hypothetical example.

This a very real concern for people who make their living providing specialized weather data to people. Storm Chasing is only a very small piece of the weather pie.

Rdewey doesn't care about forcasts and the like, but still wants the discussions and radar. Well, if this Bill goes through, you can bet all that will go to the wayside. Radar Information will most likely be a thing of the past as it competes with local TV. It will be available to Governement Agencies though.

You can see where this can go. I certainly hope the Bill isn't passed. I believe it would set things back and drive costs up even more. Now that we are in the Digital Age and mobile data is fast becoming a common thing rather than expensive novelty, we are going to see more clashes. I'd rather see the Governement work with the Private guy. Share the knowledge and share the resources.
 
You mentioned the example of radar -- a private institution providing good radar product, which the NWS competes with a free radar product.

As someone who pays taxes, let me point out:

The government collects that radar data using public funds.

In my mind, the government should not then keep that data from the public. They should not give it only to private parties who will resell the public the information the public paid to have collected.

To me, this is corporate welfare. Weather forecasting is like roads and law enforcement. It is something that is needed for the overall stability of the country and it is information that all citizens should expect to have access to. A large, well functioning system exists to accurately forecast weather. Why switch it over to another party and make Americans pay that party for access to the data and forecasting they've already bought?

If other vendors *cough Accuweather cough* are capable of providing better forecasts and data than the NWS, then why do they need the playing field to be "leveled" for them? The USPS has been around for hundreds of years, and yet we have UPS, FedEx, and DHL doing quite well for themselves. Why? Because they provide a premium service for a price and that service is at least as valuable as the premium they charge.

The problem with these other vendors is that their product is not sufficiently better to justify a price premium. Thus, petition Congress to eliminate the competition so that they can charge for their mediocrity.
 
Let me clarify.... I'm not saying that NWS should stop using radar or stop radar reaserch. It falls in the area of warning the public and IS an official duty and mandate of NWS. However, free radar (even level III) would probably go offline as a public service if this bill were to become law (or one like it). The question should be answered, how much free public data should NWS provide?

Baron, WSI and a couple of others make a mint in providing Doppler Weather Radar to Private companies. They do the software programming and build the eqiupment and make their living on this product. If NOAA were to upgrade their service reliability, and upgrade their publicly available radar data (Level III vs. Level II) how many TV stations, especiall smaller stations with tight budgets would continue to pay WSI, Baron, ect.? Now the Government has reduced the demand for that product, thus cutting into their profit. How long can that go on before they go under?

I can see both sides of the fence here. As a very budget minded chaser who wants nothing more than to get the word out to the public in the best manner possible, and as someone who would like to be in a business providing weather data and make a living at it. It's tough and there will be a lot of wrangling.
 
You mentioned the example of radar -- a private institution providing good radar product, which the NWS competes with a free radar product.

As someone who pays taxes, let me point out:

The government collects that radar data using public funds.

In my mind, the government should not then keep that data from the public. They should not give it only to private parties who will resell the public the information the public paid to have collected.

To me, this is corporate welfare. Weather forecasting is like roads and law enforcement. It is something that is needed for the overall stability of the country and it is information that all citizens should expect to have access to. A large, well functioning system exists to accurately forecast weather. Why switch it over to another party and make Americans pay that party for access to the data and forecasting they've already bought?

If other vendors *cough Accuweather cough* are capable of providing better forecasts and data than the NWS, then why do they need the playing field to be "leveled" for them? The USPS has been around for hundreds of years, and yet we have UPS, FedEx, and DHL doing quite well for themselves. Why? Because they provide a premium service for a price and that service is at least as valuable as the premium they charge.

The problem with these other vendors is that their product is not sufficiently better to justify a price premium. Thus, petition Congress to eliminate the competition so that they can charge for their mediocrity.

People who work for accu weather have told me that the goal of Joel is to bring down the NWS. What more needs to be said. $$$$ is all Joel cares about. Period. He is NOT looking after the interest of the public. We need to boycott Accu-Weather.
 
public

I'm tired of the GOP trying to privatize everything. There is such a thing as the public good, which the weather service serves. For-profit entities do not always have the public good at heart, being concerned more about short-term profit motive and the bottom line. The weather service is a proper function of government, not the private sector.
 
Let me clarify.... I'm not saying that NWS should stop using radar or stop radar reaserch. It falls in the area of warning the public and IS an official duty and mandate of NWS. However, free radar (even level III) would probably go offline as a public service if this bill were to become law (or one like it). The question should be answered, how much free public data should NWS provide?

Baron, WSI and a couple of others make a mint in providing Doppler Weather Radar to Private companies. They do the software programming and build the eqiupment and make their living on this product. If NOAA were to upgrade their service reliability, and upgrade their publicly available radar data (Level III vs. Level II) how many TV stations, especiall smaller stations with tight budgets would continue to pay WSI, Baron, ect.? Now the Government has reduced the demand for that product, thus cutting into their profit. How long can that go on before they go under?

I can see both sides of the fence here. As a very budget minded chaser who wants nothing more than to get the word out to the public in the best manner possible, and as someone who would like to be in a business providing weather data and make a living at it. It's tough and there will be a lot of wrangling.

This is silly. We are talking about public safety. The NWS should continue to update their radar systems. It should be no matter that there are other companies out there trying to compete with them. That is their problem. If is no concern to me or my family when it comes to protecting me. If the NWS stops improving what they have because of a few companies who are trying to compete against them...then they are fools. The purpose of the NWS if to protect life and property.

There is really nothing to argue here. I don't care if Barron or any other company makes a cent of their radar products. They are after $$ and are not trying to serve the public. Period. If they cared about the public then they would help the NWS improve what they have. I don't see them doing that.
 
The NWS does a very good job of over all weather forcasting and has the database to provide trends and the facilties to do major research. They also do a very good job of local level warnings. Which they should do.

What they do not do (and this is where several small private companies excel) is get targeted weather information out to other private companies. County Electric Cooperatives are a case. Yes, they have access to all the NWS info we do. However, they don't have (or most cases don't have) someone trained to go and fetch all the information and turn it around in viable form specialized for an electric companies needs. Steps in Company X who tells County Electric that for a fee, we will provide you with daily and hourly forecasts targeted with the information you want and we'll do it on time at the times you want. To make it better, we'll install equipment at your critical sites and beam that information back to you every 15 minutes. NWS will give you the regional outlook. METAR will give you hourly at their stations. How many regular folks (not weather weenies) do you that can read a METAR?

Now, lets say this has been in place for sometime. Company X has a nice contract getting the information to County Electric. Here comes NWS again, with a bunch of new sensors who primary purpose is to enhance the warning time for severe weather. Ok, that's all well and good. But.... as a by-product of the sensors, the same information that Company X provides for a cost, NWS now provides free of charge and available to anyone with a computer. All they have to do is assimilate the dats into the form they want. They now have a Computer Guru on staff to take care of their office network and he finds a little program to do all this. He finds most of the coding for this little program available on some obscure NOAA website and now save County Electric X amount per month, and denying Company X that same amount. NOAA has just "duplicated" an existing network of sensors that are most likley of the same quality and provide 90% of the sensor data they want and shut down Company X in the process.

On the UPS/DHL issue. I don't see the canary yellow or the Big Brown out delivering daily small letter mail. Yes, USPS offers Overnight Services for packages. They don't do it near as well as UPS and DHL.

The whole thing is a two sided coin folks. Both side are right to a degree. Both sides could benefit from some cooperation. In reality, is Baron really threatened by NWS? Not right now. Not in the near future.. WxWorx is a unique data plan and others out there are also giving it a whirl. I can do it chaeper than they can, but in some areas I'm crippled, in other areas I get better data. As long as the NOAA Servers continue to bog down during Severe Weather events, I doubt there will be a big issue.

Not having dealth with Accu-Weather (at least not that I know of) I can't say. They employ (or should) Meteorologists much the same as TV weather and NOAA. If he's producing a poor quality product, then his competitors will eventually win out. Blaming the governemnt is not his answer but is a sure fire way to keep him in business for at least a while. NOAA being "Brought Down" by Private Sector? In his dreams. When was the last time you heard of a major governement agency being brought down by anything? Moved, renamed, or split into different agencies, but totally wiped out?

Data will flow folks. One way or another. I don't believe we'll loose radar services, nor even NWS forecasting services. Too many people rely on them right now. Specialized Weather Data Services will be around for sometime to come. It really all depends on the consumer and end users of the product.

I've played Devils Advocate enough for one day! :D
 
Data will flow folks. One way or another. I don't believe we'll loose radar services, nor even NWS forecasting services. Too many people rely on them right now. Specialized Weather Data Services will be around for sometime to come. It really all depends on the consumer and end users of the product.

I've played Devils Advocate enough for one day! :D

You don't believe? That will make me sleep better at night :)

If the goal of these groups is to destroy the NWS then I think we should believe them. I don't think it is a good idea for us to "guess" what might or might not happen. You are playing a risky game there.
 
I think that, even more so than the NWS, these companies fear easier access to data equals more competition due to a decreased barrier to entering the market. Open, easy-to-use file formats (which these same companies so vociferously opposed the last couple years, but it happened anyway) and easy access to data collected using PUBLIC tax money mean that they have to continue innovating in order to stay ahead of the curve. Duh. Isn't that what the free market system is supposed to be all about? Instead, they want to continue selling the products they currently have without having to lift a finger, and just rake in the profits by keeping the status quo and artificially inflating the barrier to entry for new companies.

This whole thing about NWS "overstepping" its bounds by providing forecasts to the public (as they have since the 19th century) is just a small part of their overall strategy to unfairly lock competitors out of the market. Frankly, I think it's completely disgusting. I mean, heck, a large number of products from these places are nothing more than repackaged NWS forecasts, and the ones that aren't are usually worse anyway, because NWS has one significant advantage--they live in the area they're forecasting for, and as a result (assuming the forecaster is doing his/her job) have a better handle on what the local climate is like, rather than just pumping out a gridded model forecast. Ah, yes, another thing they get for free funded by public tax dollars but want to charge everyone else for--I must be a communist to oppose such a plan!! And if a company wants to run its own models, more power to them, but if they can't demonstrate that their product is better, they have no business getting a free ride simply because no one else has easy access to tax-funded NCEP models anymore.


If a company wants to use a business model that depends on setting up a network of sensors to evaluate the threat of weather towards life and property, they are doing that knowing full-well that NWS could well upgrade their observation networks in the future to provide a similar service to everyone, and not just those able to afford it. If NWS had to make sure they never installed an instrumentation network similar to a private one already in existence for fear that they might somehow invalidate the usefulness of the private network, they would never install another piece of instrumentation. In cases involving public safety, it should not be incumbent on NWS to look out for the good of a few corporations, but rather for the good of the entire country. The corporations can take care of themselves, and if they can't offer a service worth paying for, they need to find a new line of work. That's the risk of running a business, you never know what tomorrow may bring, and you need to be on your toes to make sure you maintain and grow your customer base.

Ultimately, the point here is simply this: Taxpayers pay to collect, archive, and distribute weather data. Taxpayers pay to have the NWS protect life and property--zone forecasts, etc., are simply one aspect of this, as anyone involved in agriculture (for example) will attest. Taxpayers are the ones funding all this work, so taxpayers as a whole should have equal access to the results, rather than a few taxpaying corporations having an advantage just because they happen to have the money to pay Washington lobbyists to promulgate one-sided arguments and misinformation. Corporations have every right to take a publicly available, taxpayer-funded product, turn it into something superior (but proprietary), and sell the result. However, they have no right to make the taxpayer-funded product proprietary, just so they can push smaller players out of the market.
 
This is absolutely ridiclouis. When will the GOP stop trying to privatize everything, including public safety! AccuWeather and The Weather Channel do not provide the same scrutinized region by region anaylses that produces real forecasts. I think StormTrack members need to seriously voice their opinion on this legislation and not let it get pushed through the house overnight. We have made such incredible strides with the NWS and the internet. We cannot let this happen.
 
This whole thing about NWS "overstepping" its bounds by providing forecasts to the public (as they have since the 19th century) is just a small part of their overall strategy to unfairly lock competitors out of the market. Frankly, I think it's completely disgusting. I mean, heck, a large number of products from these places are nothing more than repackaged NWS forecasts, and the ones that aren't are usually worse anyway, because NWS has one significant advantage--they live in the area they're forecasting for, and as a result (assuming the forecaster is doing his/her job) have a better handle on what the local climate is like, rather than just pumping out a gridded model forecast.

I enjoyed your post Don but must disagree with your thoughts in the above paragraph. I am employed in the private sector firm Meridian Environmental Technology (Grand Forks, ND). We provide various road maintenence forecast products for several states' DoT as well as 511 travel weather. I can assure you that we do not proved NWS "canned" forecasts. Quite the contrary as there are many occasions where our forecasts differ considerably from the various NWSFOs. Different forecasters, different opinions. Quite frankly, I have seen far too many NWS forecasts using straight "canned" model (especially MOS) products without regaurd to the synoptic set-up or local climatology. My local Eastern North Dakota office (FGF) is notorious for this. Is this really a forecast? Where is the value added? I do not want to indulge in an arguement over who produces the better forecasts since the NWS and the private sector have different forecast priorities. I am extremely confident that my firm produces quality forecast products day in and day out. As a matter of fact, our client base is growing.

I have a firm belief that competition is a GOOD thing. The best way to improve your product is to make it superior to another. Products can be reduced to mediocrity without competition. We would still be driving Model A's if Chevy didn't come along. Intel vs AMD, Apple vs IBM... and thank the Lord I do not have to shop at Kmart. There is probably more room for cooperation between the private sector and NWS, particularly in the media.
 
It is a sad day when a bill like this can actually make it into consideration without being thrown in the wastebasket. It is in my firm belief, after seeing this, that the private weather companies have stepped far out of line.
 
"One of the most important and contentious struggles, mentioned here last spring, appears to be turning out in a way that will burnish the Bush administration's pro-tech record. This is the "fair weather" controversy. The question at its core is whether the National Weather Service, which uses taxpayer funds to collect nearly all weather readings, will be allowed to make its information available through the Internet--or instead required to sluice it all to commercial weather services, as the SEC once did with Mead.

The famous Circular A-130 argued strongly for Internet distribution, as did a special study of the question by the National Research Council in 2003. The weather service went ahead with such sites--and they have proved enormously popular. During the three months last fall when four hurricanes struck the South, weather service sites received nine billion hits--breaking a government record of six billion hits on NASA sites in the three months after the Mars rover landing last spring.

From an interest in aviation, I often visit the weather service's marvelous Aviation Digital Data Web. Without a doubt, it has saved many lives by making it easy for pilots to understand where the dangers from icing, thunderstorms and turbulence are. Last fall, the government invited public comment on the weather service's new strategy and received overwhelming support. Just after the election, the service announced that it would officially embrace an open-information policy.

But the Commercial Weather Services Association, the industry's trade group, has complained that such sites violate an agreement from the pre-Internet era. By its argument, the taxpayers should continue to pay for all the weather balloons and monitoring stations--but should not be allowed to get the results directly from government sites.

"We feel that they spend a lot of their funding and attention on duplicating products and services that already exist in the private sector," Barry Lee Myers, executive vice president of AccuWeather, says of the weather service. "And they are not spending the kind of time and effort that is needed on catastrophic issues that involve lives and property, which I think is really their true function."

He added that the weather service might have done a better, faster job of warning about the southern Asian tsunami if it had not been distracted in this way. Sen. Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, where AccuWeather is based, has supported the industry group's position. A spokesman said Santorum would introduce legislation to "help" the weather service "continue providing meteorological infrastructure, forecasts and warnings, rather than providing services already effectively provided by the private sector." In other words, taking down those Web sites that the stealth High-Tech Administration has helped create. "

http://news.com.com/Is+President+Bush+good..._3-5546604.html
 
Quote

"We feel that they spend a lot of their funding and attention on duplicating products and services that already exist in the private sector," Barry Lee Myers, executive vice president of AccuWeather, says of the weather service. "And they are not spending the kind of time and effort that is needed on catastrophic issues that involve lives and property, which I think is really their true function."



BOYCOTT ACCU WEATHER. I know several people today that have cancelled all subscriptions with them and have written letters to them. Let them know WHY you are pulling your money from them.
 
The fact that nobody has mentioned the title of this thread is completely false amazes me... NWS continue to issue warnings and public forecasts is the FIRST PARAGRAPH in the bill! There's no proposal to remove that aspect of NWS.
 
He added that the weather service might have done a better, faster job of warning about the southern Asian tsunami if it had not been distracted in this way.

Last time I looked, the National Weather Service doesn't issue tsunami alerts (regardless of the fact that there were no tsunami detection sensors in the Indian Ocean to begin with)!
 
I'm not sure the exact method, but tsunami alerts do come from NOAA and are broadcast via NWS lines.
 
bill

It sounds to me like this bill would kill stuff like the public mesoscale analysis page and much of our access to SPC products.

Ridiculous. Unconscionable. A triumph of privatize-everything ideology over the public good.

This bill MUST NOT PASS.
 
I enjoyed your post Don but must disagree with your thoughts in the above paragraph. I am employed in the private sector firm Meridian Environmental Technology (Grand Forks, ND). We provide various road maintenence forecast products for several states' DoT as well as 511 travel weather. I can assure you that we do not proved NWS "canned" forecasts. Quite the contrary as there are many occasions where our forecasts differ considerably from the various NWSFOs. Different forecasters, different opinions. Quite frankly, I have seen far too many NWS forecasts using straight "canned" model (especially MOS) products without regaurd to the synoptic set-up or local climatology. My local Eastern North Dakota office (FGF) is notorious for this. Is this really a forecast? Where is the value added? I do not want to indulge in an arguement over who produces the better forecasts since the NWS and the private sector have different forecast priorities. I am extremely confident that my firm produces quality forecast products day in and day out. As a matter of fact, our client base is growing.

I have a firm belief that competition is a GOOD thing. The best way to improve your product is to make it superior to another. Products can be reduced to mediocrity without competition. We would still be driving Model A's if Chevy didn't come along. Intel vs AMD, Apple vs IBM... and thank the Lord I do not have to shop at Kmart. There is probably more room for cooperation between the private sector and NWS, particularly in the media.

I think that in blowing off a head of steam, I went too far in criticizing all private weather companies. I didn't want to target specific entities, and wound up targeting everyone instead, and should have noted that there are many good companies out there that do not try to stifle competition, but instead beat it by providing superior products. I just get really frustrated by people who pretend the weather service is paid millions to sit on their butts 24/7. It certainly has its flaws, as does any institution, and the public service system tends to encourage too much moss on the stone, but the weather service is a vital component of public safety that provides many services besides the occasional watch/warning, and to pretend that it does nothing else of value (as have some proponents of this bill) is disingenuous at best.
 
It is true the bill designed to make the NWS concentrate more of warnings and step away from competiting things. Okay so lets be clear, this is a threat to free publically avaliable radar. This bill is so vague the whole network could be off-limits. This bill still sits in committee, and it is yet to be seen whether there will be much support for it, lots of bills die in committee. I can almost gurantee you that if this bill did pass that it will be amended several times. This isn't about free enterprise, it's about our government providing a service for its citizens. This is another step in a trend of making our tax-payer funded instutions serve the commercial industry.

Sorry, I think this is a stupid stupid bill.
Scott.
 
I'm not sure the exact method, but tsunami alerts do come from NOAA and are broadcast via NWS lines.

I kinda knew the first part, but never knew the second. Thanks rdale.

Ofcourse, the point made by the article was that the National Weather Service was too bogged down with forecasting 'sunny skies' and if it had not been, it could have gotten the word out about the December 26th, 2004 East Asian Tsunami sooner.

According to countless TV documentaries and the like about the disaster, NOAA had no tsunami sensors in that area of the world, and they had no clue a giant tsunami had been produced until a period of time after it made landfall along Indonesia.

Of course, I'm more into the weather than into earthquakes and tsunamis :).
 
Back
Top