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Storm brews over .weather domain

5:18 PM, Mar 31, 2013   |    comments
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Maybe we can't control the weather, but two high-level companies want to control the rights to a new Internet domain name, dot-weather.

The USA's two largest private commercial weather companies -- The Weather Channel and AccuWeather -- along with a few others are duking it over the use of this new so-called generic top-level domain, dot-weather.

The Weather Channel wants to use it exclusively and has applied to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for its use. AccuWeather and other companies want to prevent that from happening and have filed an objection with the International Chamber of Commerce.

The stakes are big because weather is the most accessed piece of information on the Internet -- more than news or sports -- and is something that affects people's lives every day, according to AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers.

ICANN, a not-for-profit organization that coordinates the Internet's addressing system, says it developed the new program for so-called top-level domain names to increase competition and choice. There are 21 now, such as the familiar dot-com, dot-org, dot-gov, dot-net, etc., but there soon could be hundreds, ICANN reports.
ICANN is considering the applications for the new names, which include everything from dot-aaa to dot-zulu.

According to the Weather Channel's application with ICANN, "the dot-weather generic top-level domain will provide an authoritative Internet space for weather content."

"The application was a part of a widely publicized open process, and The Weather Channel was the only entity that chose to apply for dot-weather," according to an e-mailed statement from Weather Channel spokesman David Blumenthal. "The Weather Channel chose to submit its application in an effort to foster innovation around consumers' use of weather forecasts and information. The goal was and is to provide users with more methods for getting the vital weather data they need.

"In addition, we believe that we can provide a trusted source of historically accurate data and prevent the domain's use by non-weather entities or inappropriate and possibly malicious use," he added.

Is it fair for the Weather Channel to have a monopoly on dot-weather?

For the Weather Channel "to get dot-weather is a real restriction in the freedom of public access on the Internet," says AccuWeather's Myers. He adds that other companies, along with academics and government organizations, are also against this attempt to control information that is meant to be for the public good.

By way of full disclosure, AccuWeather provides all of the weather forecast data for USA TODAY and its products, and has since September 2012. Prior to that, the Weather Channel provided the weather data for USA TODAY.

"There is a great deal of opposition to the Weather Channel's attempt to own dot-weather, and the language in their own application suggests they have an intent of dominating weather information and becoming a single source to 'avoid' confusion -- i.e., eliminate pesky choices for the consumer," says AccuWeather spokesman Justin Roberti.

The International Chamber of Commerce's objection process and ICANN's final determination will likely take a few months. 

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

GANNETT/USA Today

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