Georgia Power plans to soon offer security camera service on privately owned lighting poles, an unannounced program that triggered some city privacy concerns when a Sandy Springs councilmember caught wind of it.
The concerns stemmed from a misunderstanding that Georgia Power would install cameras on power poles on public streets. In fact, Georgia Power is considering doing that in the future, said company spokesperson John Kraft, but will launch the camera program in the spring only on private light poles, and initially only on commercial properties.
“This is only on private property,” Kraft said, adding in an email, “We are studying the installation of security cameras on electric utility poles as a potential offering to city governments in the future, but no launch of that type of expanded service is anticipated at this time.”
Councilmember Tibby DeJulio revealed the program’s existence at the Jan. 17 City Council meeting. He heard about the program from a co-worker after talking with various homeowners who want to set up private camera systems but find them too expensive. He said he called Georgia Power and got a confirmation and details about the program, set to launch in March, from a company official whom he did not identify.
DeJulio’s understanding was that the program involved installing cameras on power poles on public streets, then leasing them to homeowners or others. He said he was told the cameras are high-resolution and capable of sending up to a week’s worth of footage to a police department.
City Manager John McDonough immediately noted the city has a policy requiring council approval of any security cameras placed in the public right of way, adding he is “not sure how [the reported plan] jibes” with that. And City Attorney Wendell Willard voiced the underlying legal concern: “Right to privacy—I don’t want anyone checking on me.”
Based on Kraft’s descriptions, it appears DeJulio got a good understanding of the technology, but not of how Georgia Power intends to launch it. Kraft said the cameras will be offered only on light poles that private, commercial property owners have acquired through the company’s lighting services group division.
Kraft said the program applies only to Georgia Power-owned light poles and the cameras are usable only by the property owner, not leased to the general public.
“The service would be similar to our outdoor lighting offerings,” Kraft said in an email. “Georgia Power will own and maintain the equipment for a monthly fee and provide a video feed to the customer.”
The cameras indeed can store footage and send it to the police, Kraft said, adding that Georgia Power never handles or views the footage directly. “The customer owns that data,” he said.
The company may offer a similar service to residential customers in the future, Kraft said, but that is not the plan at the moment. Another idea is indeed installing cameras on public street power poles, but the concept involves an agreement with city governments, Kraft said.
Because the lighting services group is a separate division, no costs for the camera program are coming from regular power customer’s utility bills, Kraft said.