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Smart meters may provide free Wi-Fi

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Tennessee's largest utility company is considering free Wi-Fi service for the MLGW coverage area in Shelby County.

MLGW President Jerry Collins confirmed the 60,000 smart meters, which will be installed all over Shelby County by the end of 2014, can also be used to offer free Wi-Fi to the MLGW coverage area.

"Some cities are using the communications system, which is used for (the) smart meters, for citywide Wi-Fi," stated MLGW President, Jerry Collins.

Santa Clara, California is the first city in the country to use wireless, digital smart meters to offer free public Internet. Its Internet is comparable to a 3G cellular data network.

"The most expensive part of this was putting in a system for our own utility use. Adding the free public Wi-Fi channel to a system that already exists was very easy," explained Silicon Valley Power representative Larry Owens.

Collins expressed how MLGW is always looking for better ways to served Mid-Southerners.

"We are always looking at opportunities that serve the customer," said Collins.

Some MLGW customers are vehemently against the automated meter readers that will phase out 170 MLGW workers who now manually read the meters.

A group of clients unsuccessfully fought to prevent the new meters from being installed. Among several concerns, protestors listed the possible impact on health.

"The higher utility bills and the meter fires...we know it's happening. It's documented inside (Memphis) Light, Gas, & Water and those privacy issues," continued Donna Bohanno.

The utility group maintains Smart Meters are safe and will save the customers money.

80 percent of smart meters will be installed in the city. 30 percent of these meters will be installed in the county. These are clustered by meter reading routes.

Collins would not confirm if or when free Wi-Fi could come to the area.

"It's certainly an option or a possibility down the road," finished Collins.

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