OUC to install 223,000 smart meters; Customers can opt out for unknown fee

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

Channel 9 has learned the Orlando Utilities Commission has stepped up its efforts to install smart meters all over the city.

But reporter Nancy Alvarez spoke to one customer and found out she may have to pay more just to keep her old meter.

OUC’s plan is to replace about 223,000 of the old electric meters by the end of the year.  But any homeowner who doesn't want one of the new smart meters might have to pay a fee.

Channel 9 was there Tuesday as crews worked to modernize Orlando's Colonialtown neighborhood by installing the new, digital electric meters.

The new meters allow customers to track their usage hour by hour online, but resident Cherie Faircloth isn't happy about it.

“I have concerns, because I've heard about smart meters around the country,” said Faircloth.

There has been controversy over potential health risks caused by the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the meters. That alone was enough to convince Faircloth to opt out.

 Faircloth said OUC asked for a doctor's note. She said they told her she'll have to pay a fee to keep the old meter.

“I wasn’t pleased at all. I asked them how much is that fee?  ‘Well, we don't know yet,’” Faircloth said.

A company spokesman told Channel 9 the fee will be set by the end of the year when OUC determines how many customers opt out.

“If we have to roll a truck out to just one house to read one meter once a month, there is a business cost involved with that,” said OUC spokesman Tim Trudell.

Trudell also told Channel 9 that customers shouldn't feel the need to opt out, because the devices are safe.

“This is a tiny, tiny RF signal on the side of your house. A quarter of a watt of power, a fraction of your cellphone,” said Trudell.

But customers like Faircloth aren't convinced, and she wants no part of OUC’s future. 

Channel 9 checked and found that "opt out" programs in other parts of the country include a one-time $75 dollar fee and a $10 monthly fee. 

OUC’s next meeting is Tuesday at 2 p.m.