Public utilities, such as natural gas, electricity, and telephone, were normally tightly regulated as a monopoly by the state in which they are distributed. This monopoly was required to cover the cost of the wires and pipes to deliver the product to the consumer. The telephone system was the first to be deregulated several decades ago with the breakup of Ma Bell.
Now, it is the electricity and natural gas utilities that are being deregulated. This legislative process began for natural gas in Georgia in 1997 and was amended in 1999 and 2001.
Atlanta Gas Light Company elected to open its territory to competition in 1998. The company is awarded a base fee to cover the cost of maintaining the infrastructure, while leaving the actual cost of the natural gas to be set by the competing provider companies who now buy and sell natural gas on the open market. Consumers within this territory are free to pick and choose the provider company and rate package that best suits them.
Provider companies, or marketers, must show financial and technical abilities to the Georgia Public Service Commission before being granted permission to provide natural gas to Georgia consumers.
Deregulation does not mean there are no regulations to control the distribution of natural gas in Georgia , but rather that the details of the process used is open to competition and allows the individual natural gas provider companies to use their own ingenuity to provide service and incentives to attract and keep customers, who now have options to choose another provider if they are not satisfied.