Limiting Free Weather Service? Forecast Bad For Protected Businesses

from the save-it-for-a-rainy-day dept

Companies often cry foul at free services that allegedly take away their business. The unfairness claims get even more adamant when government is subsidizing the competitive freebies. These complaints seem to be the basis of a pending Senate bill that would strip the federally funded National Weather Service of its weather forecasting. Lest you wonder what else a weather service might do, the legislation would allow NWS to keep making hazard alerts, like hurricane warnings. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum on behalf of companies such as AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, which argue that the overlapping free services are anti-competitive. The problem with that argument is that studies show the exact opposite is true: free services in the weather business have actually spurred competition, not hindered it. A huge, thriving industry has grown around free weather info because companies have been forced to build value on top of the commodity, which becomes the input for innovation rather than the final output. In this case, it appears government intervention helps boost business and competitiveness. As the NWS could tell you, messing with that might quickly lead to disaster.

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