Internet service starts weather warning

An Internet service provider will launch an Internet-based severe-weather

warning service for its customers next week, and the National Weather Service

hopes other companies will follow suit.

Front Range Internet Inc., an ISP based in Fort Collins, Colo., will make

its WeatherLink service available on its Web site starting next week. Customers

can sign up for the service to have NWS severe-weather alerts delivered

to their computer while they are surfing the Internet. Customers will hear

an alarm and see a pop-up window that displays the warning message for a

particular location in Colorado that they choose.

The service could evolve to include locations across the country, and other

ISPs could use the non-proprietary software to provide the same service

to their customers, said William Ward, president of Front Range. The company

demonstrated a prototype of the system on Wednesday.

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration

challenged a group of Internet, wireless, broadcast and cable executives

at a July roundtable to come up with new ways to use technology to help

deliver warnings of severe weather and other natural disasters. Front Range

is the first to answer the call.

NWS hopes that this is just the first of many companies that will find new

ways to deliver hazardous-weather information to the public.

Gregory Rohde, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information,

said he is "issuing a challenge to other ISPs" to develop similar services

for their customers.

"We need to have ISPs come to the table, use the technology and become part

of the partnership. We want [other] industries to use these technologies

to enhance warning systems."

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