Back in the day, if you wanted phone service, you called the local phone company. Same for electricity or natural gas. If you were traveling, a travel agent booked your plane ticket. Life was simple.
Not anymore. One unforeseen effect of deregulation is more choices in life. That means you're flooded with direct mail and telemarketers trying to get you to choose one thing or another. It means having to make choices about things that used to be decided for you. For many people, it means confusion about what they need or want and the best way to get it. Competition can be good, but confusion can be stressful.
- Telephone deregulation started with the breakup of AT&T in 1984. It continued with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The result: Multiple businesses competing for your local, long distance and cellular service. Weekly or daily marketing calls. Do you need a landline? Which deal is best?
- In many states, the utility commission is easing regulations on electricity and natural gas companies. Consumers have choices of energy suppliers rather than being forced to use their local utility. Which choice will save them money?
- The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 eased controls on fares, schedules and routes. A result? Prospective passengers online, trying to book the best among a dizzying array of ticket prices, watching prices change or become unavailable as they decide. Fly direct? Go through a hub? Take the red eye? When can you use the free flights you've earned?
This may be the information age, but how much do you get? Keep reading.