(Santa Barbara, CA – March 10, 2011) Smart meters are being installed around California, and Santa Barbara is next. San Luis Obispo County just halted installation, the state of Connecticut banned them, and protests against them are happening throughout our state. Yet, many of us know little about them.

Few of us paid attention when the controversial 2009 stimulus authorized $4.5 billion to propel smart meter and smart grid deployment. Since there was little notice to consumers, few heard about the California Public Utility Commission dictating every aspect of installation of smart meters to the utility companies, including passing billions of dollars in costs on to the customer, at a time when unemployment is the highest in decades.

Fortunately, we’re seeing the light due to complaints from customers with smart meters. Advocacy groups claim smart meters’ punitive rates of up to 10 times higher are often not the consumer’s fault, but a function of a communal 24/7 tier system based on energy usage of others in the grid. Seniors, people who work at home and those with medical devices are the machines’ most common victims. Across the country, power has been remotely turned off for unpaid bills. At least one county banned the meters after a man froze to death.

Who’s really “smart”? The government for labeling programs they force us to use as “smart”? Or those who question what’s “smart”? I hope Santa Barbara follows the lead of San Luis Obispo County, where smart people demanded their leaders protect them against government “smarts.” We deserve that, too.