COLUMN: How ‘smart’ is the protest over this?

Our last bill from BC Hydro included a rather large ‘catch-up’ fee.

Our last bill from BC Hydro included a rather large ‘catch-up’ fee. Seems the equal payment plan we are on was not sufficient to meet the consumption rate, thus the extra billing amount.

When I inquired as to the reason for the fee, and why we had not been informed of increased consumption on previous bills, the answer was that our electrical meter had been read only once – in September – last year. Other than that one month, all other ‘readings’ were merely estimates.

Now admittedly my electrical meter is not the most accessible: the meter reader has to climb over a locked gate. However, one day a few years ago I happened to be home when the reader guy showed up, and I asked him about climbing over the gate and he said “not a problem,” so I have to assume we either have a new meter reader or the old one is not as athletic (except for September) as he used to be.

However, and as I pointed out to BC Hydro, I don’t like being surprised by unexpected charges and want my meter read on a regular basis, which brought me to the realization of the value of ‘smart meters.’

They don’t require anyone to climb fences or gates, eliminate the possibility of confronting an aggressively protective dog, and mean that every month I get billed the ‘real’ amount of electrical consumption.

So I did what very few British Columbians are doing right now; I called Hydro and asked to be put on a priority list for a smart meter.

You could almost hear the gushing from the other end of the phone, as I’d guess 99 per cent of the calls Hydro gets about smart meters are that people don’t want them.

And if I lived in a condo complex, where my bedroom was separated from a bank of smart meters by nothing more than a stud wall, I’d be a little concerned too.

However, for most of us, the amount of radio frequency waves emanating from a smart meter will be irrelevant since we are already bombarded with them 24/7. Cell phones, Wi-Fi, car alarms, radar detectors, even the little key fobs that unlock car doors, emit radio waves, and we absorb them. Cell phones are particularly ‘bad’ for exposure, yet most of us have them glued to our ears with little care or regard despite them, I’m given to understand, emitting a considerably greater intensity of waves than a smart meter.

The convenience of a mobile phone seems to override most people’s concern for exposure to brain cancer.

So why the hue and cry over the small amount of radiation that smart meters add to the mix? Is it generated by those who may lose their meter reading jobs; is it simply another ‘climb on the bandwagon’ protest; or are people really and truly worried about the amount of radio waves that our bodies absorb on a daily basis?

I do think we could be literally in a state of overkill, and that eventually all this exposure could be detrimental to our long-term health.

However, to argue against smart meters, yet continue to use our cell phones, connect to the Internet with wireless laptops and use every other conceivable device that operates on radio frequencies is being either hypocritical or misinformed.

By the way, I’m not trying to justify the expense BC Hydro, and thus you its owners, are undertaking to install these devices, but if you argue against them based on the radio waves they emit, then you better also campaign to eliminate every other wireless device.

As for me, I want one. I will miss the meter reader guy, though if he only comes by once a year I suppose there won’t be a big gap in my acquaintance roster.

markrushton@abbynews.com