February 28th, 2012 – Representative Paul Opsommer (R) of Dewitt introduced today a bill in the Michigan House, HR 5439, to allow utility consumers to opt out of “advanced meters” otherwise known as ‘smart’ meters. This bill, like the McMillin bill before, has been referred to the House Energy Committee. If either bill passes we will have reached a real landmark in our fight against an abusive technology.
This latest bill does go even further than the first one to protect us:
- Respect for community moratoriums.
- Utility requested to remove an ‘advanced meter’ must do so within 15 days
- Compromise on fees: A $50 removal fee – but only if there had been previous consent by present or previous owner. No ongoing monthly fees for opting out!
- Utility may not offer a discount or rebate to anyone for accepting an advanced meter.
- Except where customer explicitly requests an “advanced meter”, the utility must send letter out 6 months prior to install explaining what an “advanced meter” is and explaining opt-out procedure.
- Where customer has formally requested opt-out, utility must acknowledge in writing.
- Covers municipal energy utilities as well as those regulated by MPSC.
- Customer may opt-out of later generation advanced meter even if first generation one was accepted.
- Advanced meter data transmissions must be encrypted and may not contain the customer’s name or address. Only a customer identifier number is allowed.
- Customer data may not be posted on internet except with a secure protocol and a password.
- Customer data may not be given to law enforcement except under court supervision.
- Shutoffs shall require an in person visit at least 48 hours in advance to verify address.
- Secure system and audits by Commission concerning shutoff procedures.
There are only two provisions we can think of that we would like to see added to this bill. One would be to redefine “advanced meter” to include any meter that is capable of recording and storing usage in intervals of an hour or less, can act as a gateway between appliances in a home and the utility and also has two way real time communication with the utility to support demand-response programs.
While wireless radio transmissions are one of the major objections to the present variety of ‘smart’ meter, such wireless communication should not be viewed as an essential or defining attribute of a ‘smart meter’. After all, in some other nations, all the objectives of a smart meter program have been achieved by fiber optic or other hard-wired means. The definition matters if consumers are to be protected from ALL violations of their privacy and Fourth Amendment rights. No utility customer should ever be forced to accept a meter that is a surveillance device but sends the customer data over a phone line or over the power line itself.
The other provision we would like is a strong community opt-out. It is not clear if the community moratorium provision in this bill would afford more than temporary protection. Any city or township should be able to enact a zoning ordinance that would establish certain safe zones for those citizens who are concerned about the possible long term health effects of being bombarded 24/7 with radio waves from their neighbors meters as well as their own. Individual opt-out alone won’t be enough to save the health of susceptible individuals.