AskDefine | Define utilities

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of utility

Extensive Definition

A public utility (usually just utility) is a company that maintains the infrastructure for a public service (often also providing a service using that infrastructure). Public utilities often involve natural monopolies, and as a result are often government monopolies, or if privately owned, the sectors are specially regulated by a Public Utilities Commission.
Developments in technology have eroded some of the natural monopoly aspects of traditional public utilities. For instance, electricity generation, electricity retailing, telecommunication and postal services have become competitive in some countries and the trend towards liberalization, deregulation and privatization 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 are owned by the customers they serve. They are usually found in rural areas. Private utilities, also called investor owned utilities, are owned by investors. Unlike private companies, private utilities may be listed on the stock exchange. Private, in this context, means not owned by the public or the government.
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.

Examples of utilities

utilities in German: Öffentliches Versorgungsunternehmen
utilities in Estonian: Energeetika
utilities in French: Travaux publics
utilities in Dutch: Nutsbedrijf
utilities in Portuguese: Utilidade pública
utilities in Vietnamese: Công trình hạ tầng kỹ thuật
utilities in Chinese: 公用事业
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