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Smart meters blamed for Wi-Fi, garage opener interference

Utility not doing enough, advocate says

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Smart meters issued by an electric utility in Maine are interfering with a wide range of customers' electronic devices, including wireless routers, cordless phones, electric garage doors, and answering machines.

The Central Maine Power Company has received complaints from more than 200 customers since the meters were installed a little more than a year ago. The utility has deployed almost 425,000 of the devices, which use low-power radio transmissions to send meter readings. The 200 complaints received to date are probably a small subset of those affected, the state's public advocate said.

“We have asked CMP to do a better job informing customers about these potential problems, and while CMP's website does refer to the issue, we don't think it goes far enough," Public Advocate Richard Davies said in the statement. “My agency is troubled by the possibility that people may be spending their time and money fixing a problem that may be caused by CMP's meters, and that can and should be fixed by CMP.”

In a list of frequently asked questions, utility officials said the meters operate on the same 2.4GHz frequency band used by many cordless phones and 802.11 wireless devices.

“Separating interfering devices usually reduces interference, so make sure the wireless device is located as far from the smart meter as possible,” the posting advises. “Also, adjust the position of the antenna on the device, if possible, and move the wireless device away from any walls that may absorb the signal.”

The utility also said interference can sometimes be overcome by changing the Wi-Fi channel used by their router. In the US, channels 1 and 11 are favored, the utility said.

In the past, some electric customers have reported that their power bills spiked immediately after their old meters were replaced with smart meters. Some have also complained about the health effects from the radio transmissions of smart meters, although there is little scientific evidence to back up these claims.

Security experts have also warned that smart meters are susceptible to hack attacks that could potentially take down the power grid. ®

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