It’s time to sound the alarm: Power companies in Vermont have officially declared war on the privacy and wellbeing of their customers. In a rollout largely funded by a massive Department of Energy stimulus grant, Vermont’s electricity utilities have begun replacing standard, analog meters with wireless models known as “smart meters.” While such a technological upgrade may at first glance seem benign, these new meters in fact threaten our health, our privacy and the very values on which this country was founded.
Once your home’s analog meters have been replaced, these new, wireless-enabled meters begin tracking your electricity usage in granular detail. They then take this valuable, private data about your family’s specific energy usage and relay it back to the utility company. With this level of knowledge, utilities can even tell which type of appliances and devices you are using and when you use them. The utilities can either keep this information in a database waiting for it to be hacked, or else decide to sell it outright to enterprising marketers.
While it should come as no shock that the federal government loves to track our movements, what’s truly startling about these meters is that they emit harmful, potentially carcinogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF). Recent peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that prolonged exposure to this type of RF can lead to leukemia in children and reduced fertility rates in adults.
One would think that these privacy and health concerns would be enough to stop the meters in their tracks. Unfortunately, the utilities in Vermont have followed the playbook of other smart meter rollouts throughout the United States. They hold “public information sessions” but make little to no effort to publicize them. Then they turn around and point at these sessions as if they did their due diligence to alert the populace. What’s worse, even if one attends an information session, the utility’s employees never own up to the documented liabilities of this technology. All of this results in these companies continuing to erode the civil liberties and wellbeing of the very folks who keep them afloat, without so much as a speed bump in their way to slow them down.
At least one state has stepped up and blown the whistle on these new meters for what they are: a sham. Connecticut’s attorney general, George Jepsen, has come out against the use of smart meters in Connecticut. His cited reason for opposing smart meters is that they are likely going to “provide few benefits” for consumers and cost far too much to purchase and install. Regardless, this story is poised to play out again and again in states across the country.
We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and let this boondoggle continue unabated. The once-innocuous electric meter has become a weapon that threatens our privacy and health, and if we don’t do something about it soon, smart meters could wind up affixed to every home in America. Join the thousands of citizens already aware of the impacts of this technology and take a stand in your community to stop this excessive expansion of government spending and surveillance in its tracks.
Martine Victor is a graduate of Bennington College, a mother of two and a concerned citizen. She lives in Manchester Center, Vermont.