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Liberalized utilities, new technologies and urban social polarization : the UK experience

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stephen Graham


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This article explores the urban social impacts of the radical liberalization and privatization of British utilities since the early 1980s, and relates these impacts to broader shifts towards more socially fragmented cities. The article has three parts. The first part introduces the experimental political project through which British telecommunications, gas, water and electricity networks were privatized and liberalized during the 1980s. In the second part, the changing relationships between these key network utilities and the users of utility services are analysed and the broad logic of 'splintering networks' is identified. Three elements of this restructuring are explored: the 'rebalancing' of tariffs and cost-reflective pricing; the use of new metering technologies for 'cherry picking' affluent consumers while 'socially dumping' more marginal ones; and the development of new IT strategies for supporting the social construction of segmented markets. The concluding part of the article identifies the implications of the reorientation of utilities for social and spatial polarization within cities, and draws out implications for urban policy and research.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Graham S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Urban and Regional Studies

Year: 1997

Volume: 4

Issue: 2

Pages: 135-150

Print publication date: 01/04/1997

ISSN (print): 0969-7764

ISSN (electronic): 1461-7145

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/096977649700400203


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