The deployment of advanced metering technology from Entergy Louisiana has rankled some homeowners locally, who say they were caught off guard by the recent installation of white "access points" on street poles in their neighborhoods.
The devices — which include two small boxes and an antenna — allow Entergy to remotely monitor a customer's gas or electric meter without having to send out a physical "meter reader." In places with above-ground utilities, the access points largely blend in, perched alongside other technology on utility-owned infrastructure like wooden poles.
But, where utilities are underground, the devices are instead placed on street poles, and residents say they stick out like a sore thumb. Some say they wish they would've been notified of the installations ahead of time.
Ed Lagucki, the president of the Federation of Greater Baton Rouge Civic Associations, said residents in Shenandoah, White Oak Landing and The Lake at White Oak began contacting him last month about the unsightly installations, questioning their purpose and why they weren't given a heads-up.
He said the lack of communication brought back memories of the rocky rollout of 5G technology locally, when AT&T constructed cell towers unannounced in the rights-of-way in front of resident's houses. That caused an outcry among homeowners and led Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome to ask the telecommunications companies to cease construction in residential areas until a new ordinance was adopted.
"As with 5G, most people embrace the concepts of smart meter technology, but wanted to be better informed of and have a voice in this type of rollout," Lagucki said.
The East Baton Rouge Metro Council approved new rules Wednesday governing the look and placement of 5G cell towers, including a unique provisi…
David Frees, a spokesperson for Entergy Louisiana, said the deployment and installation of advanced metering infrastructure is a multiyear effort that was reviewed and approved by the Louisiana Public Service Commission. He said the effort began in 2018 and is expected to wrap up by the end of 2021 and that thousands of access points had already been installed.
Lagucki said Entergy Louisiana had done a fine job previously communicating with residents on their plans to install new smart meters, but wishes that same level of communication extended to the installation of the access points.
Before installing the smart meters, Entergy sends out two notifications, by emails, text or mail, to homeowners, Frees says. The firm doesn't offer a similar notification for the access point installations.
Priscilla Head, a resident of The Lake at White Oak, said the access points were installed in her neighborhood in December, around the same time the Metro Council approved a new ordinance regulating 5G cell towers. The device sits just below the lamp on the glossy, black street pole outside her house.
"I wasn't satisfied after what we went through with 5G," Head said. "I wanted to jump on this right away before it got out of hand."
Gehl Davis, the president of the White Oak Landing homeowner's association, said he was concerned that this was only beginning, and that soon their light poles could be filled with antennas for many different gadgets.
He said, for now, their best bet would be to paint them black so they blend in and said a representative from Entergy told him they'd see what they could do to accommodate that request.
"They're pretty ugly," Davis said. "I think we're going to get them whether we like it or not."