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Friday, April 22, 2005

Why offer it for free when others are charging for it?

This irritating story from the Palm Beach Post was found via BoingBoing. I wish I could remember the things it's reminding me of. You know, I know you do: what are those other similarly irritating initiatives I'm trying to think of? Excerpts:

Feds' weather information could go dark
Robert P. King, Palm Beach Post, Thursday, April 21, 2005

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 ... 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. ... 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. He says that as he reads the bill, a vast amount of federal weather data would be forced offline.

[An opponent to the bill said:] "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? ... What are you going to do, charge hurricane victims to go online, or give them a pop-up ad?"

"It is not an easy prospect for a business to attract advertisers, subscribers or investors when the government is providing similar products and services for free," Santorum [the bill's sponsor] said.

"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," [NOAA weather service's director of strategic planning] said. "You don't just plug in your clock when you want to know what time it is."


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