Public utility

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A public utility is an organization that maintains the infrastructure
Infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

 for a public service
Public services
Public services is a term usually used to mean services provided by government to its citizens, either directly or by financing private provision of services. The term is associated with a social consensus that certain services should be available to all, regardless of income...

 (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 state-wide government monopolies. Common arguments in favor of regulation include the desire to control market power, facilitate competition, promote investment or system expansion, or stabilize markets. In general, though, regulation occurs when the government believes that the operator, left to his own devices, would behave in a way that is contrary to the government’s objectives.

The term utilities can also refer to the set of services provided by these organizations consumed by the public: electricity
Electric utility
An electric utility is a company that engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity for sale generally in a regulated market. The electrical utility industry is a major provider of energy in most countries. It is indispensable to factories, commercial establishments,...

, natural gas, water and sewage
Water industry
The water industry provides drinking water and wastewater services to residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of the economy. The water industry includes manufacturers and suppliers of bottled water...

. Telephony may occasionally be included within the definition.

North America


In the United States of America, public utilities are often natural monopolies
Natural monopoly
A monopoly describes a situation where all sales in a market are undertaken by a single firm. A natural monopoly by contrast is a condition on the cost-technology of an industry whereby it is most efficient for production to be concentrated in a single form...

 because the infrastructure required to produce and deliver a product such as electricity or water is very expensive to build and maintain. As a result, they are often government monopolies, or if privately owned, the sectors are specially regulated
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

 by a public utilities commission
Public Utilities Commission
A Utilities commission, Utility Regulatory Commission , Public Utilities Commission or Public Service Commission is a governing body that regulates the rates and services of a public utility...

.

Developments in technology have eroded some of the natural monopoly aspects of traditional public utilities. For instance, electricity generation
Electricity generation
Electricity generation is the process of generating electric energy from other forms of energy.The fundamental principles of electricity generation were discovered during the 1820s and early 1830s by the British scientist Michael Faraday...

, electricity retailing
Electricity retailing
Electricity retailing is the final process in the delivery of electricity from generation to the consumer. The other main processes are transmission and distribution.- Beginnings :...

, telecommunication
Telecommunication
Telecommunication is the transmission of information over significant distances to communicate. In earlier times, telecommunications involved the use of visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs, or audio messages via coded...

, some types of public transit and postal service
Mail
Mail, or post, is a system for transporting letters and other tangible objects: written documents, typically enclosed in envelopes, and also small packages are delivered to destinations around the world. Anything sent through the postal system is called mail or post.In principle, a postal service...

s have become competitive in some countries and the trend towards liberalization
Liberalization
In general, liberalization refers to a relaxation of previous government restrictions, usually in areas of social or economic policy. In some contexts this process or concept is often, but not always, referred to as deregulation...

, deregulation
Deregulation
Deregulation is the removal or simplification of government rules and regulations that constrain the operation of market forces.Deregulation is the removal or simplification of government rules and regulations that constrain the operation of market forces.Deregulation is the removal or...

 and privatization
Privatization
Privatization is the incidence or process of transferring ownership of a business, enterprise, agency or public service from the public sector to the private sector or to private non-profit organizations...

 of public utilities is growing, but the network infrastructure used to distribute most utility products and services has remained largely monopolistic.

Public utilities can be privately owned or publicly owned. Publicly owned utilities include cooperative and municipal utilities. Municipal utilities may actually include territories outside of city limits or may not even serve the entire city. Cooperative utilities
Utility cooperative
A utility cooperative is a type of cooperative that is tasked with the delivery of a public utility such as electricity, water or telecommunications to its members...

 are owned by the customers they serve. They are usually found in rural
Rural
Rural areas or the country or countryside are areas that are not urbanized, though when large areas are described, country towns and smaller cities will be included. They have a low population density, and typically much of the land is devoted to agriculture...

 areas. Private utilities, also called investor owned utilities, are owned by investors
Investment
Investment has different meanings in finance and economics. Finance investment is putting money into something with the expectation of gain, that upon thorough analysis, has a high degree of security for the principal amount, as well as security of return, within an expected period of time...

.

The UK and Ireland


In the British Isles both the state, private firms and charities ran the traditional public utilities. For instance, the Sanitary District
Sanitary district
Sanitary districts were established in England and Wales in 1875 and in Ireland in 1878. The districts were of two types, based on existing structures:*Urban sanitary districts in towns with existing local government bodies...

s were established in England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

 in 1875 and in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 in 1878.

The term can refer to the set of services provided by various organizations that are used in everyday life by the public, such as: electricity generation
Electricity generation
Electricity generation is the process of generating electric energy from other forms of energy.The fundamental principles of electricity generation were discovered during the 1820s and early 1830s by the British scientist Michael Faraday...

, electricity retailing
Electricity retailing
Electricity retailing is the final process in the delivery of electricity from generation to the consumer. The other main processes are transmission and distribution.- Beginnings :...

, electricity
Electric utility
An electric utility is a company that engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity for sale generally in a regulated market. The electrical utility industry is a major provider of energy in most countries. It is indispensable to factories, commercial establishments,...

 supplies, natural gas supplies, water supplies, Sewage works
Sewage treatment
Sewage treatment, or domestic wastewater treatment, is the process of removing contaminants from wastewater and household sewage, both runoff and domestic. It includes physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove physical, chemical and biological contaminants...

 and sewage
Water industry
The water industry provides drinking water and wastewater services to residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of the economy. The water industry includes manufacturers and suppliers of bottled water...

 systems. Telephony
Telecommunication
Telecommunication is the transmission of information over significant distances to communicate. In earlier times, telecommunications involved the use of visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs, or audio messages via coded...

 and disabled community transport services may occasionally be included within the definition. They were mostly privatised in the UK during the 1980s.

Developing countries


In poorer developing countries, public utilities are often limited to wealthier parts of major cities, as used to be the case in developed countries in the nineteenth century, but in some developing countries utilities do provide services to a large share of the urban population, such as in the case of water and sanitation in Latin America. Some places like Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

 have had their water supply, etc., damaged or destroyed by years of warfare.

The California Public Utilities Commission


The California Public Utilities Commission
California Public Utilities Commission
The California Public Utilities Commission is a regulatory agency which regulates privately owned public utilities in the state of California, including electric power, telecommunications, natural gas and water companies...

 (or CPUC) is a Public Utilities Commission
Public Utilities Commission
A Utilities commission, Utility Regulatory Commission , Public Utilities Commission or Public Service Commission is a governing body that regulates the rates and services of a public utility...

 that officially regulates the privately owned electric, natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies that operate in the state of California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

.

Public Utility Quality of Service for Telecommunications


Maintaining the infrastructure for a public service or utility demands a set of sound practices to enable Quality of Service (QoS). Uniform construction procedures especially must be followed by all parties. In particular, the recent boom in new architectures/services in telecommunications demands a whole new set of rules to maintain uninterrupted service.

With new construction in public utility areas, the basic considerations and requirements relative to the construction practices and procedures are critical in a telecommunications company operating area.

It is important that any construction should minimize the possibility of creating conditions that
  • are hazardous to the general public and to any personnel working on, in, or around supporting structures
  • could impair service or the restoration of service to customers of all parties using the supporting structures.


A set of practices that promotes reliable network performance and complies with all national codes; and that is consistent with current OSHA Rules, EPA regulations, and DOT requirements; are imperative.

SR-1421, Blue Book - Manual of Construction Procedures provides a basis for developing productive Joint Use agreements and collaboration with other utilities such as power supply companies.

There are many OSHA rules, EPA regulations, DOT requirements, and other agencies that can affect the operations of a telecommunications company that are not directly covered in SR-1421, although cross references where appropriate are present. These auxiliary issues are properly addressed in specific work rules issued by individual companies.

Basic Safety Precautions in a Telecommunications Public Utility


There are general safety precautions to be observed when working on poles, cables, guys, wire, strand, joint-use and joint-owned structures, pole-mounted aerial equipment, and underground and buried plant.

In the United States, all personnel must conform with the federal, state, and local laws requiring Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to be worn when performing particular work operations. Similar laws and regulations apply in many other countries.

Examples of personal protection equipment are hard hats, safety glasses or goggles, insulating gloves, proper foot wear, work gloves, etc.

Construction, maintenance, and repair work of telecommunications plant involves potentially dangerous situations since the work is often performed
  • In aerial lifts, bucket trucks, buried trenches, and confined spaces
  • In the vicinity of high-voltage and high-current power supply cables and apparatus
  • With heavy equipment and structures including utility poles, excavators, and large cable reels
  • Using significant forces particularly during strand and guy tensioning, cable deployment, cabinet placement and pole setting operations.


It is critical that management and construction personnel be cognizant of these hazards and abides by the appropriate methods and practices to limit as far as reasonably possible the risks associated with telecommunications plant procedures.

Common classifications of utilities in the United States


  • CWD – County Water District
  • FCWCD – Flood Control and Water Conservation District
  • FWSD – Fresh Water Supply District
    Fresh water supply district
    A fresh water supply district is a body which manages fresh water supply in a defined area in the United States. It may have the power of eminent domain....

  • ID – Irrigation District
    Irrigation district
    In the United States an irrigation district is a cooperative, self-governing public corporation set up as a subdivision of the State government, with definite geographic boundaries, organized, and having taxing power to obtain and distribute water for irrigation of lands within the district;...

  • IOU - Investor-owned utility
    Investor-owned utility
    An investor-owned utility or IOU is a business organization, providing a product or service regarded as a utility , and managed as private enterprise rather than a function of government or a utility cooperative...

  • MWA – Municipal Water Authority
  • MWD – Municipal Water District
  • MUD – Municipal Utility District
    Municipal Utility District
    A Municipal Utility District is a special-purpose district or other governmental jurisdiction that provides public utilities to the residents of that district...

  • POU - Public-oberchine Utility
  • PUD – Public Utility District
    Public utility district
    In the United States, a public utility district is a special-purpose district or other governmental jurisdiction that provides public utilities to the residents of that district.PUDs are created by a local government body, such as a city, county, or...

  • WA – Water Agency
  • WCID – Water Control and Improvement District
  • WD – Water District
    Water district
    A water district is a special district given the task of supplying water and sewer needs to a community....

  • WS – Water System
  • WSC – Water Supply Corporation

See also

  • Lists of public utilities
  • Electric utility
    Electric utility
    An electric utility is a company that engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity for sale generally in a regulated market. The electrical utility industry is a major provider of energy in most countries. It is indispensable to factories, commercial establishments,...

  • Telephone company
    Telephone company
    A telephone company is a service provider of telecommunications services such as telephony and data communications access. Many were at one time nationalized or state-regulated monopolies...

  • Water industry
    Water industry
    The water industry provides drinking water and wastewater services to residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of the economy. The water industry includes manufacturers and suppliers of bottled water...

  • Airline deregulation
    Airline deregulation
    Airline deregulation is the process of removing entry and price restrictions on airlines affecting, in particular, the carriers permitted to serve specific routes. In the United States, the term usually applies to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978...

  • Common utility duct
    Common utility duct
    A common utility duct, sometimes called a common utility conduit, is any structure – above, on, or below ground – that carries more than two types of public utility lines...

  • Electricity market
    Electricity market
    In economic terms, electricity is a commodity capable of being bought, sold and traded. An electricity market is a system for effecting purchases, through bids to buy; sales, through offers to sell; and short-term trades, generally in the form of financial or obligation swaps. Bids and offers use...

  • Energy
    Energy
    In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

  • Firm service
    Firm service
    Firm services, also called uninterruptible services, are services, such as electricity and natural gas supplies, that are intended to be available at all times during a period covered by an agreement. Also, the service is not subject to a prior claim from another customer and receives the same...

  • Liberalization
    Liberalization
    In general, liberalization refers to a relaxation of previous government restrictions, usually in areas of social or economic policy. In some contexts this process or concept is often, but not always, referred to as deregulation...

  • NAICS 22
    NAICS 22
    NAICS 22 is the section of the NAICS system in Canada, the United States and Mexico which deals specifically with utilities in those countries....

  • American Public Power Association
    American Public Power Association
    The American Public Power Association is the service organization for the more than 2,000 U.S. community-owned electric utilities that serve more than 46 million Americans....

  • National Rural Water Association
    National Rural Water Association
    The National Rural Water Association, with its affiliated state rural water associations, is the largest water and wastewater utility membership organization in the United States of America. The NRWA is a professional organization that supports rural and small water utilities throughout the nation...

  • Off-the-grid
    Off-the-grid
    The term off-the-grid or off-grid refers to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities....

  • Public services
    Public services
    Public services is a term usually used to mean services provided by government to its citizens, either directly or by financing private provision of services. The term is associated with a social consensus that certain services should be available to all, regardless of income...

  • Rate Case
    Rate case
    A rate case is the formal process which industries that have the legal designation of public utility are mandated to go through in order to set the rate at which they are allowed to charge consumers for their service...

  • Telecommunication
    Telecommunication
    Telecommunication is the transmission of information over significant distances to communicate. In earlier times, telecommunications involved the use of visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs, or audio messages via coded...

    s
  • Universal service
    Universal service
    Universal service is an economic, legal and business term used mostly in regulated industries, referring to the practice of providing a baseline level of services to every resident of a country...

  • Utility cooperative
    Utility cooperative
    A utility cooperative is a type of cooperative that is tasked with the delivery of a public utility such as electricity, water or telecommunications to its members...

  • Infrastructure
    Infrastructure
    Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

  • Dartford Cable Tunnel
    Dartford Cable Tunnel
    The Dartford Cable Tunnel is a £11,000,000 tunnel upstream of the Dartford Crossing built in 2003-4. Its diameter is ~3m. It is designed to carry and allow for maintenance of 380kV National Grid electrical cable beneath the Thames; it is accessible by foot as a crossing of the Thames, but by...

  • Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935
    Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935
    The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 , , also known as the Wheeler-Rayburn Act, was a law that was passed by the United States Congress to facilitate regulation of electric utilities, by either limiting their operations to a single state, and thus subjecting them to effective state...

  • Public Utilities Commission
    Public Utilities Commission
    A Utilities commission, Utility Regulatory Commission , Public Utilities Commission or Public Service Commission is a governing body that regulates the rates and services of a public utility...


External links


  • - Latest News in Utilities and Information Technology