NTIA Press Releases
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2000
Contact: Ranjit de Silva
(202) 482-7002
Art Brodsky
(202) 482-0019


WASHINGTON ---Gregory L. Rohde, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, hosted a demonstration of a new Internet-based system intended to warn the public of dangerous weather conditions or other events.

Rohde, who is administrator of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), said the demonstration is a follow-up to the July 17 roundtable hosted by NTIA and an interagency working group dealing with all-hazards warnings. The July roundtable discussion, attended by representatives from broadcast, cable, wireless and Internet industries, was intended to spark a dialogue between industry and the government on how to "bring the best of technology to the highest purpose -- protecting the public in dangerous situations by providing emergency warnings," Rohde said.

At the July event, industry was challenged to come up with new ways to use technology to help deliver warnings. The first product from that challenge is the prototype system demonstrated today, by Front Range Internet of Fort Collins, Colo., a member of the ISP Business Forum (ISPBF), one of the groups that participated in the roundtable. Following the roundtable, ISPBF asked its membership for a volunteer to come up with a new service to respond to the government challenge, and Front Range Internet took up the task. Under the version of the product shown today, if a local hazard warning is issued by the Commerce Department's National Weather Service, people using Front Range's connection to the Web will hear an alarm over their computer and see a pop-up window displaying the warning. (see http://home.frii.com/community/weathercontrol.html

Rohde said: "The prototype is a wonderful example of an industry group and one of its members rising to the occasion and helping to fulfill its public responsibilities by putting technology to work. We encourage other industries to take a similar pro-active approach to using their technologies to help people. I hope others in the Internet industry will join in."

Jamison Hawkins, National Weather Service chief of programs and policy, said, "The National Weather Service issues all official severe weather and flood warnings for the nation, but we depend on the communications industry to help us get warnings to the right people on time. What we've lacked is a means to get these warnings to the growing population of web-surfers. This demonstration is a great public service that other Internet service providers could easily offer to their customers. It can help save lives." The Weather Service is a participant in the inter-agency working group.