POWER TO THE PEOPLE

DEREGULATION IS SHAKING UP THE UTILITY INDUSTRY. EXPECT CHEAPER ELECTRICITY AND MORE CONFUSION

Don't look now, but after shocking the airline and telecommunications industries, competition is about to jolt your sleepy electric company. Just ask Malcolm Buck, a software-support rep whose apartment in suburban Atlanta is wired for phone service, cable TV, high-speed Internet access, and security- and energy-management systems--all flowing through a single cable installed by the Southern Co., his local utility. Buck calls the electric-bill savings alone "pretty amazing."

But listen also to Robin Katz of Madbury, New Hampshire, whose mailbox was choked last year with come-ons from power companies offering everything from cheap rates to light bulbs to spruce seedlings. Says...

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