CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Local tea party members brought their concerns about remote electric meter reading to the Cleveland Utilities Board on Wednesday.
A half-dozen members of the Bradley County Tea Party said they fear that information about their personal habits, from watching television to using appliances, will be monitored. They referred to literature that says the meters can control appliances.
General Manager Tom Wheeler said CU is switching to remote meter reading for two reasons. He said the switch will save $800,000 a year in manual meter-reading costs. And beginning in 2012, TVA will price electricity based on the time of day it is used, something the new meters can measure.
Beyond that, Wheeler said, CU's meters cannot control appliances or monitor their use.
But the meters can pinpoint power outages, he said, sometimes when homeowners can't get through because of jammed phone lines.
"We don't have any intention of controlling anything past the meter,'' Wheeler told the tea party members.
"But we see everything happening in stages,'' said local tea party founder Donny Harwood.
The technology exists for Big Brother-style monitoring, Harwood said.
Other tea party members said the effects of the radio waves that transmit the data could be a health risk.
The meters transmit for 1.6 seconds every four hours, Wheeler said, and at a lower power than cell phones.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, also a CU board member, said the OnStar system in his General Motors vehicle "knows everything I do.'' And he said, referring to a traffic accident earlier this year, "they saved my life.''
Contact staff writer Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfree press.com or 423-314-1029.