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Smart meters blamed for Wi-Fi router traffic jam

A Maine advocacy group says about 250 people have complained about electronic interference from smart meters and says the utility must do a better job informing consumers about the fix.

A smart meter being installed. This is not one of the same meters installed by Central Maine Power.
Portland General Electric

About 250 consumers in Maine have reported that smart meters cause interference with Internet routers and other electronics.

The Office of the Public Advocate, a state-authorized advocacy group for utility customers in Maine, reported last week that Central Maine Power customers have contacted the group about interference within their homes from smart meters. The utility has installed about 440,000 two-way meters that automatically report power outages and allow the utility to read meters remotely.

The smart meters use the unlicensed 2.4GHz frequency band. So if a Wi-Fi router or other device, such as a garage door opener, overlaps on the same channel, there can be some interference, according Central Maine Power. The problem can be addressed by moving devices away from the smart meter or changing the channel that electronics use, the utility says in its smart meter FAQ.

The Office of the Public Advocate complained that Central Maine Power isn't providing enough information to consumers about potential problems. "While CMP's Web site does refer to the issue, we don't think it goes far enough," ratepayer advocate Richard Davies said in a statement.

A representative from Central Maine Power said the utility is aware of the problem and has set up a unit to handle complaints. Usually problems can be fixed over the phone, the representative told the Portland Press Herald.

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric has seen a backlash against smart meters over worries related to health effects from the radio transmissions of smart meters. A test done by the utility research group Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) found that radio frequency emissions from smart meter communications are far lower than from Wi-Fi and cell phones.

But PG&E has not found many cases of Wi-Fi and electronics interference from the millions of smart meters that have been installed and notes that any interference is brief since smart meters communicate for less than a minute a day in bursts of a few seconds, according to the utility.

Updated at 2:35 p.m. PT with a different photo. Updated at 4:22 p.m. PT with correction to the Electric Power Research Institute name.