SANTA BARBARA - A consumer advocacy group that describes itself as grassroots and non-partisan is calling on power company customers to voice their opinions about so-called "smart-meters" at a public hearing on Friday.
Consumers Power Alliance says through its legal efforts, an administrative judge has ordered California's largest utility companies to allow customers to not only "opt out" of the smart-meter program but also have smart-meters replaced with a traditional analogue model at the customer's request.
"If you don't want a wireless meter you have an absolute right to refuse a wireless meter", said former California State Assemblyman and local attorney Pedro Nava at a press conference at Santa Barbara's Old Courthouse, "not only that, if for some reason one was installed on your property you have an absolute right to have it removed."
The utility companies including Edison and PG&E have said smart-meters, which transmit a continuous radio frequency (RF) signal, more accurately measure customer power usage and that the data can help with energy-saving programs.
Consumers Power Alliance says customers who opt-out of the smart-meter program pay a monthly fee.
"If you have opted out you are paying 75 dollars a month for the privilege of opting out and ten dollars a month extra", Nava said.
Consumers Power Alliance says its not just about consumer privacy, health concerns from RF exposure and paying for something they don't want, the group also questions the reliability and accuracy of the wireless meters that measure power usage.
"After the smart-meter, her bill went up to about 500 dollars and it was still rising by the time she got out of there", said Henry Delgado who spoke at the press conference of her sister in Florida, "people were losing homes down there, because they couldn't pay their mortgage and they couldn't pay the electric bill."
An administrative judge with the California Public Utilities Commission will host a public hearing in Santa Barbara on Friday to gauge public opinion about the smart-meter program.
"Its your opportunity to force the utility companies to explain why they think they are entitled to charge you for something you don't want", Nava said.
The CPUC Public Hearing on smart-meters will be held at the County Board of Supervisors Hearing Room in the County Administration Building in downtown Santa Barbara on Friday, December 14.
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