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Manatee County, Florida – Florida Power & Light (FPL) will begin to charge customers who wish to opt-out of using controversial smart meters.

The devices are being installed on the homes of around 425,000 customers in Manatee and Sarasota Counties, but 3,400 people don't want them. Some are afraid they will do more harm than good.

"A lot of people are fearful that, hey, you're a big energy hog and they may just start chopping off your air conditioning," said Bradenton resident Ken Pulkin, who had one of the devices installed at his home.

In addition to the "Big Brother" worry, which the company has denied in the past, some are concerned about the radio frequencies that are emitted from the smart meters.

For years, people across the country have lobbied against the meters, which transmit a home's power usage back to the electric company's headquarters.

The Public Services Commission recently approved a plan by FPL to charge a fee to customers who refused a smart meter.

An initial enrollment cost of $95, along with a monthly fee of $13, will be assessed to those who opt-out of the smart meter initiative.

From West Palm Beach, FPL spokesperson Dave McDermitt said the cost will be used to pay for meter readers and overall infrastructure for manual meter readings.

McDermitt also insists that costs will be adjusted yearly as needed.

TECO, which covers much of Hillsborough County, said their digital meters are not the same as FPL smart meters, and has met with little resistance from customers.

"Our smart meter deployments in Florida have concentrated on our commercial and industrial customers, including customers located in St. Petersburg and our surrounding service area," reads a statement from Duke Energy. "Currently, we do not have a smart meter opt-out policy in Florida."

The Public Services Commission confirms that neither TECO nor Duke Energy have applied to bill customers to opt-out of their digital or smart meter initiative.

While FPL will begin charging customer in June for opting out, the commission said that two groups have challenged the move with hearings set for September.

FPL Smart Meter Opt Out Increase Information

http://www.fpl.com/customer/rates_and_bill/meters.shtml

FPL Smart Meter Details

http://www.fpl.com/ami/qa.shtml#16

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