Florida Power & Light customers upset fee will be charged if you do not have a smart meter

FPL says sickness claims are not backed by science

WEST PALM BEACH - Millions of smart meters are in Florida homes, but a small percentage of people refused one and still have an old digital meter on their home. That decision will cost them.

Smart meter technology allows you to check on your power usage before you get billed so you can make adjustments so your bill fits your budget. FPL can also monitor the grids with colorful maps and graphs from a control center.

Florida Power & Light can zoom into a home's smart meter to spot potential power problems, and says it can fix them quicker than ever before.

"We used to literally have to take a crew and roll out there in a truck and ride up and down the neighborhood and look for a problem. Now we're able to pinpoint where it is," said FPL spokesperson David McDermitt.

While Florida Power & Light feels there are customer benefits to the smart technology, some customers are still not sold.

"A smart meter makes me ill," said resident Bob Johnson

Johnson said after a smart meter was installed on his home, he began having ringing in his ears along with other problems.

"Nausea, headaches," Johnson said describing his symptoms.

The meters use a radio frequency to transmit data, and some skeptics blame that for their problems.

A 2012 NewsChannel 5 test of the meters and cell phones showed cell phones give off more wireless energy than a smart meter.

"There is no credible science that points to a connection between smart meters and adverse health effects," said McDermitt.

Johnson said his own situation is evidence enough for him that there's a connection.

"I asked FPL to remove it and put on a regular meter to see what happened. That was 3 months ago and those symptoms have gone away since the meter is gone," said Johnson.

Starting in June, Johnson and others with the old meters will have to pay FPL an extra $156 a year.

"Why should I have to pay them for them not to make me ill?" questioned Johnson.

FPL said the fees will pay to support an outdated system that requires meter readers rather than a computer to calculate your power bill.

"Are you making money off the fee that you are charging people," we asked FPL.

"Absolutely not. This is purely passed through. These are cost based fees that have been analyzed comprehensively," said McDermitt.

Johnson is now analyzing his next move, but feels he'll have no choice but to pay the fee.

"I think it's immoral to tell me to pay us or we're going to put something on your home that hurts you," said Johnson.

FPL sent letters to those with an old meter, and the power company said so far nearly 85% of the customers are switching back to a smart meter to avoid the fees.

Some customers have taken their fight to the Public Service Commission . The agency said more than 400 protests were filed since January.

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