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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.
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.
An electric utility is a company (often a public utility) 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. Electricity is an integral part of life in the Developed world. It is indispensable to factories, commercial establishments, homes, and even most recreational facilities.
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