Until today, I'd been pretty sure that you could call broadband a utility. I didn't even question it. But then I went to a Westminster eForum where the topic was one of many to cause a lively discussion.
It all depends what you consider to be the defining traits of a utility.
Is a utility something that is utterly necessary? We pretty much need, say, water and heating in our homes to survive. Broadband is not a matter of life or death, but we are becoming increasingly dependent on it in order to be fully functioning members of society. Does that make it a utility?
Some at the eForum argued that a utility must be an undifferentiated service. Water is water, electricity is electricity, heating is heating. Each does what it does, and that's it. Internet connectivity, on the other hand, varies in speed (among other factors) and is therefore differentiated. Many popular web applications will just not run on too slow a connection, but the electricity grid will either power a lightbulb or it won't at all.
In a way, such debates are semantic in nature. This one is pretty important, though, in terms of the debates over public funding and regulatory models for the UK's broadband infrastructure and industry.
Can we live without it?