Santorum's Sellout to AccuWeather

Fri, Jun 10, 2005 with tags politics , santorum , congress , sellout

Well, it looks like Senator Santorum (aka Senator Man-On-Dog in the street) sold out to AccuWeather with senate bill 786. The basic gist is this: AccuWeather provides the same data that National Weather Service does, but for a fee, so the NWS shouldn’t be able to provide the data. Idiot. Here’s my letter to Specter on the issue. As usual, it’s not even worth my time to email the same letter to Santorum.

I'm a writing to express my opposition to S.786 - "A bill to clarify
the duties and responsibilities of the National Weather Service, and
for other purposes".  This bill appears to be a shameless sellout by
Senator Santorum to the interests of AccuWeather and against the
citizens and taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Not only
does it work against private citizens but it also could put our
national security at risk.  I'll address the two issues seperately.

As a private citizen, and Ph.D. candidate at Carnegie Mellon
University, I enjoy receiving the weather forecasts directly from the
national weather service.  I've written several small tools that do
this and integrated them into a variety of applications (my desktop
computer, cell phone, etc).  This pulls information such as the
temperature, precipitation, and forecast directly from the National
Weather Service.  It's of a great use for me and I'm glad that my tax
dollars help pay for such a valuable service.

However, under the terms of the proposed bill, section 2(b), the only
information that the national weather service can provide for free,
directly to citizens and non-citizens alike, is the severe weather
forecasts.  For me to access the weather data that I find useful in
planning a day out in the park, or my daily walk to the university, I
would need to utilize a commercial service such as AccuWeather
(located in State College, PA, no doubt a major reason why Senator
Santorum proposed this bill).  The problem is that I don't know if
they've changed the forecasts at all.  I don't know and I don't trust
the science behind what they do.  I know the people at the National
Weather Service are competent scientists who do a very good job at
providing accurate weather.  I have no way of knowing if AccuWeather
(or some other commercial provider) is using this information, or
modifying it based on their own assumptions.

Of course, this is placed under the guise of not allowing government
competition with the private sector, however there are some things
that work better when done on a municipal or federal level, like
roads, plumbing, and weather.  I'm already paying for the information
in the form of my taxes, I don't see why I should be forced to pay
AccuWeather or some other service to access the data that can be
better provided directly.  This also will stifle innovation in the
methods of disseminiting weather information, as is often the case
with closed interfaces.  The last time I checked, AccuWeather and
other commercial weather providers, had not found a to integrate
weather into a feather of my Digital Video Recorder, like I have.

The lack of this data is also dangerous because of how it can cripple
valuable resources like SkyWarn, a network of ham radio operators who
provide weather warnings.  Without this information, they would be
unable to provide valuable information about precipitation and wind
speed for large storms.  Ham radio operators have shown time and time
again their value in instances of national emergencies, we should not
cripple this valuable service to bend to the wishes of AccuWeather,
which last time I checked made money without this land grab.

Finally, there is an additional portion of the bill that worries me,
specifically section 2(d).  Part 1 on this seems well founded enough
in that it prevents people affiliated with the NWS from providing
information on the weather before the official service announcement.
However, there are thousands of weather stations in the United States,
some monitored by individual citizens for the NWS, this would prevent
them from notifying others about local conditions if the NWS has not
issued a notice on the condition.

Secondly, part section 2(d)(2) seems particularly ominous as it would
prevent any government employee (wheteher from the NWS or otherwise)
from commenting on a weather phenomenon outside of the scope of what
was issued in the official notice.  This will go further toward the
"talking head" syndrome that our country seems to embrace where
unqualified people comment on subjects of which they have little

This bill is truly dangerous to America and not in the best interests
of your constiuents, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Thank You,

Patrick Wagstrom

Update: Apparently it only costs $7500 to buy Santorum’s Soul. I wonder if it would only be $7,500 to legalize man-on-dog or man-or-horse?