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Search ShoppingSpot or Google |   Great Must-See sites   |   Read Articles and Lists | Find answers
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ShoppingSpot > Choosing a Utility

Choosing a Utility

Gas. Electricity. Telephone. These are just a few of your monthly expenses, but they can really add up. Using the Internet to learn more about services and rates can give your money power.

(But buyer beware: Many of these comparison sites accept advertising. Even though the sites claim to be unbiased, always check directly with the provider to verify rates before signing up.)

Electricity/Gas/Oil

You may have heard about energy deregulation, which breaks down the monopoly of state-regulated utilities. Previously you didn't have a choice of electric or natural gas companies. After deregulation, you're more likely to have a choice of who generates your power, while the state continues to regulate the transmission and distribution of that power. Find out more about deregulation and its history from The Center for Responsive Politics.

Wondering watt the status of your state is? This map from ENERGYguide.com can help. You can even be e-mailed when things change. If you're wondering whether it's worth it to change providers, read these Switching Suppliers FAQ's. This audit can help you analyze your own rates.




If you do have a choice, ENERGYguide.com can help you decide. Enter your zip code and the sites will guide you to providers in your area and their rates.

If you'd like to have low environmental impact while getting the power you need, you might consider going "green." Green power includes solar, wind and hydroelectric.

Telephone

As of August 1, 2001, there are also big changes in the regulation of phone service providers. The Federal Communications Commission is forcing phone companies to "detariff, " or announce every rate plan directly to consumers. Reading the fine print on this statement (which should arrive to you via snail mail) can help you determine if there's a more economical plan available from your provider.

But if you're looking into other providers, you don't have to look far: Unlike the energy industry, there is a lot of competition for your phone line (as you probably know from the telemarketing calls that encourage you to switch providers). Before you do that though, make sure you know exactly what you're getting into. New York State's Office of the Attorney General provides some good tips.

If you want to get a cellular phone for the first time, check out Myrateplan.com's advice. Or, if you already have a cell, then read this article on cutting roaming costs. For comparing phone rate plans, there are a few options. Myrateplan.com and saveonphone.com compare all sorts of calling plans, including wireless and prepaid cards.

Check out A Bell Tolls for international, instate and state-to-state rate comparisons. If you don't want to sign up for long distance service, you can compare the rates of dial-around services, those numbers that start with 10-10, at 10-10phonerates.com. The site also answers common questions about these services.

General Comparison Sites

A few sites can help you compare rates for many utilities, even cable and Internet access. Shop around Lowermybills.com and GetConnected.com until you find a rate that fits.




   --- M. Magnarelli

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