The Utility Companies
Over the last two decades the Government’s push for competition in the utility sectors greatly increased choice for consumers. However, the need for regulation to control all the companies now involved in an increasingly fragmented market has complicated the process of getting new services connected.
Firstly, for gas and electricity, there are the network operators that own the infrastructure of pipes and cables and then the supply companies that sell the gas and electricity. In most cases we apply to network operators to get the piping and cabling connected and then choose a supplier to install the meters and sell us the product. Some suppliers can also accept applications for new connections, but usually rely upon others to manage and carry out the work.
For telecommunications there is only one network operator for the UK called Openreach which is owned by BT, although operated separately. But, for gas and electricity, there are several network operators working within differing area boundaries that do not always follow city or county borders. Even parts of London are split in some cases. Cable in the UK is owned and operated by Virgin Media
When it comes to the suppliers of gas, electricity and telecommunications they are not organised geographically, so there is a wider choice for consumers. However, the water sector does operate within area boundaries, and the suppliers are the companies responsible for maintaining the infrastructure. So there are no independent network operators for water.
Finally, all these network operators and suppliers are accountable to specially appointed regulators, such as Ofgem (gas and electricity).