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TMCNet:  Opelika council to consider Smart Grid Bill of Rights

[August 21, 2012]

Opelika council to consider Smart Grid Bill of Rights

Aug 21, 2012 (Opelika-Auburn News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The committee tasked with crafting a bill of rights to govern Opelika's new smart grid network will present the document to the Opelika City Council for its consideration Tuesday.


The Smart Grid Bill of Rights Committee has been meeting since January while gathering residents' input and studying similar policies in other cities, said Chuck Wacker, the committee's chairman.

The committee began drafting the bill of rights about a month and a half ago, Wacker said.

"We really did a lot of research in it before we actually put a pen to paper and put together our document," he said.

The document is broken down into four sections: the right to be informed; the right to privacy; the right to options; and the right to data security.

Mayor Gary Fuller and the five council members each appointed one resident to the committee and tasked them with creating the bill of rights after some Opelika residents expressed concerns about the city's use of smart grid technology. Opelika residents voted in August 2010 to allow the city to offer its own TV, Internet and phone services, which also enabled the city to offer smart grid services through its fiber-optic network that is being installed throughout Opelika.

Because the smart grid system will offer enhanced monitoring of electricity usage, Wacker said some residents were scared of the "Big Brother effect," which placed added emphasis on the privacy and data security sections.

"It's got nothing to do with trying to monitor you as an individual, and that was the fear that a lot of people had," Wacker said.

Fuller said he was pleased with the bill of rights and believes it is a good, practical document. He added that City Attorney Guy Gunter has reviewed the document and recommended few changes.

Fuller said one provision that Gunter recommended adding was that customers' personal information "will be withheld from public inspection to the extent allowed by law." "If we get a court order or a subpoena, that's something entirely different," Fuller said. "But we're not going to voluntarily release that." The bill of rights also allows customers to take up privacy violations with the city council if they feel Opelika Power Services has not adequately dealt with the issue. Additionally, the document stipulates that the unauthorized release of customer data by a city employee is categorized as a group one offense and could potentially lead to employee termination under Opelika's personnel policy.

In addition to Wacker, other members of the Smart Grid Bill of Rights Committee were the Rev. Michael Burton, Cathy Newkirk, Bill Kent, Mel Smyth and Myles Tatum. Beth Ringley of The Motive Group, a city contractor overseeing the fiber project, also served on the committee but was a non-voting member, Wacker said.

The bill of rights will be presented as an ordinance at the council's work session Tuesday. Ordinances are typically voted upon in the meeting following their introduction, unless council members vote to suspend the rules.

Fuller said on Monday that he will not ask the council to consider suspending the rules during Tuesday's meeting.

Tuesday's work session begins at 6:15 p.m., while the regular meeting follows at 7 p.m. The council meets at Opelika City Hall, 204 S. Seventh St.

Online " To see a copy of the Smart Grid Bill of Rights, visit bit.ly/OPSBillofRights.

" To see the full Opelika City Council agenda, visit bit.ly/OCCAgenda.

___ (c)2012 the Opelika-Auburn News (Opelika, Ala.) Visit the Opelika-Auburn News (Opelika, Ala.) at www.oanow.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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