Public utility

A public utility company (usually just utility) is an organization that maintains the infrastructure for a public service (often also providing a service using that infrastructure). Public utilities are subject to forms of public control and regulation ranging from local community-based groups to statewide government monopolies.

Public utilities are meant to supply goods/services that are considered essential; water, gas, electricity, telephone, and other communication systems represent much of the public utility market. The transmission lines used in the transportation of electricity, or natural gas pipelines, have natural monopoly characteristics. A monopoly can occur when it finds the best way to minimize its costs through economies of scale to the point where other companies cannot compete with it.[1] For example, if many companies are already offering electricity, the additional installation of a power plant will only disadvantage the consumer as prices could be increased. If the infrastructure already exists in a given area, minimal benefit is gained through competing. In other words, these industries are characterized by economies of scale in production.[2] Though it can be mentioned that these natural monopolies are handled or watched by a public utilities commission, or an institution that represents the government.[3]

There are many different types of public utilities. Some, especially large companies, offer multiple products, such as electricity and natural gas. Other companies specialize in one specific product, such as water. Modern public utilities may also be partially (or completely) sourced from clean and renewable energy in order to produce sustainable electricity. Of these, wind turbines and solar panels are those used most frequently.

Whether broadband internet access should be a public utility is a question that was being discussed with the rise of internet usage. This is a question that was being asked due to the telephone service being considered a public utility. Since arguably broadband internet access has taken over telephone service, perhaps it should be a public utility. The Federal Communications Commission in the United States in 2015 made their stance on this issue clear.[4] Due to the telephone service having been considered a public utility, the Federal Communications Commission made broadband internet access a public utility in the United States. [5]

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