Man puts cage around meter; NES cuts off his power - WSMV News 4

Man puts cage around meter; NES cuts off his power

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Jeff Jacobson put a cage around his meter. (WSMV) Jeff Jacobson put a cage around his meter. (WSMV)

Whether they want them or not, thousands of Middle Tennesseans are getting smart meters.

The Channel 4 I-Team learned of one man’s extreme measures to avoid getting one.

Many people have concerns about the smart meters, so the I-Team took those concerns to an expert for answers.

Several people told the I-Team they have told their electric companies they don’t want the smart meters. And while some have the option to opt out, others don’t have a choice.

Jeff Jacobson has become accustomed to the fact that he doesn’t have power. He heats up his coffee on his wood stoves and uses the refrigerator in his camper to store food.

“I'm just using our propane refrigerator. And it runs off propane, and it hardly uses any propane,” Jacobson said.

The lights to his house don’t turn on. It’s all because NES cut off his service after he put a cage around his meter.

“Yes, I put this on so they couldn’t install the RF smart meter,” Jacobson said.

The cage keeps NES from swapping out his analog meter for a new digital smart meter.

Jacobson said workers showed up one day and cut his power lines, which are still dangling from his house.

“It was because I don't want the meter. So if I have to get my power cut off to not get the meter then that's what's going to happen,” Jacobson said.

The I-Team has learned Jacobson is one of more than 2,000 customers in the area who don’t want a smart meter. 

When Jacobson tried to opt out, he said NES told him he didn’t have a choice.

“Your company went so far as to actually shut off a customer’s power who didn’t want a smart meter. How do you respond to that?” the I-Team’s Lindsay Bramson asked NES.

“Their power was not disconnected because they refused an AMI meter. In this specific instance the customer restricted our access to the metering equipment, which poses a safety concern,” said Jack Baxter, vice president of operations for NES.

Jacobson said the reason he doesn't want one is he's afraid the radiation could cause long-term health problems. He also believes it could cause a house fire.

"It's about protecting my family. That's all it's about,” Jacobson said.

So do people like Jacobson have a reason to be concerned? The I-Team talked to a radiation expert with Vanderbilt to find out. He said people are exposed to a higher frequency on their smart phones.

“Smart phones, of course, are emitting the same type of radio frequency waves as smart meters,” said Dr. John Boice, a medical professor with Vanderbilt who studies radiation.

“These are low frequency waves.  They don't have enough power to break DNA molecules or cause damage,” Boice added.

But not all power companies are forcing customers to have them. Unlike NES, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation is giving customers the option to opt out. So far 2,000 customers with the company have said no. NES tells us 23 of their customers have told them they don't want one. And for customers choosing to opt out, NES charges $32 dollars a month to do so.

“We did things the way that we did because we want to do our utmost to respect and value the opinions of our members and address their concerns,” said Chris Jones, President and CEO of MTEMC.

One of those customers is state Sen. Mae Beavers.

"We need to know more. What is their purpose,” Beavers said.

Beavers told the I-Team she is working on legislation that would give more people the option to opt out.

But both electric companies say smart meters will actually help people rather than hurt them.

"It's going to help us be more efficient in our operations. It's going to help us deliver electricity to our customers in a more reliable manner,” Baxter said.

Jacobson and others still aren't convinced. And if it means living a different kind of lifestyle than he's used to, he says he's OK with that.

“I have the right to protect my family and my land. That's my ultimate right. And if I have to cut my power off and cut my water off and cut all ties from society to do that, then that's what I’ll do,” Jacobson said.

Both NES and MTEMC say the smart meters will allow customers to better manage how much electricity they're using on a daily basis. While it will allow the companies to cut back on meter readers, they also say they hope customers’ bills will decrease as a result of the new meters.

The I-Team has also learned some states have laws allowing all customers to opt out. Maine, Michigan and California are three of them.

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