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What Counts as a Utility Bill?

Updated November 21, 2016

The term "public utility" can be a little misleading. Businesses that provide utility services to the general public are considered public utilities, though they may be owned privately. In some locations, public utilities are allowed to have monopoly rights so they may better serve specific geographical regions. Bills received by consumers for these paid services count as utility bills.

Water

Monthly water bills are considered to be utility bills. Water is provided through public utility companies, which are commonly run through city and local governments. Water companies are responsible for purifying the water to make it fit for human consumption. The local water company, a public utility, lays piping for residential and commercial properties to connect to the city or county water supply, but property owners are responsible for running pipes up to the connections. Many types of property renters receive paid water services as part of the rental agreement.

Gas and Electricity

Gas and electricity bills are considered to be utility bills under the legal definition of the term. These services are often provided by the same local utility, though some property owners may only use one or the other to power their systems. Water heaters, stoves and household dryers may be powered through gas or electricity. Gas and electricity companies are responsible for running power connections to properties. The company is responsible for maintaining the connections, providing needed services if equipment fails.

Telephone

Land telephone services are also considered to be public utilities. The invoices these telephone companies send out are utility bills. Like electric and water companies, local telephone companies provide a service to the public at large. Public telephone companies are responsible for erecting telephone poles and running wires for land phone devices to work. The local telephone company ensures that properties are connected to the system; representatives will also visit a property to add or remove phone lines as requested. Like most businesses, public telephone utilities charge for their services.

Cable

Cable services, which are generally offered through private companies, are also public utilities. Cable companies must run large wires, usually underground, to provide their services. Many companies work with local governments to lay the infrastructure of the cable system; customers decide if they want to connect to the grid. Monthly cable services cost money, which is requested from the consumer in the form of a utility bill.

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About the Author

K. C. Morgan is a professional freelance writer, with articles and blog posts appearing on dozens of sites. During her years of writing professionally, K. C. has covered a wide range of topics. She has interviewed experts in several fields, including celebrated psychoanalyst Frances Cohen Praver, PhD; television personality and psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig; and entrepreneur Todd Reed.