San Francisco to ban yellow pages

In the age of the Internet, are the yellow pages still relevant? In fact, are phone books contributing anything other than massive amounts of garbage?

It’s a question San Francisco thinks it has an answer to. (Hint: it’s roughly ‘no’. To both questions.)

The city will continue its environmental initiatives by passing a law prohibiting the distribution of telephone directories unless the publishers of telephone directories first obtain the consent of individuals and businesses to deposit the books.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors chairman David L. Chiu is expected to present the legislation today at city hall. San Francisco Chronicle editor Rachel Gordon has a good overview of the proposed law in today’s newspaper (another increasingly obsolete technology …).

Gordon writes:

Under the proposal, telephone companies and other distributors and publishers of Yellow Pages telephone directories would be prohibited from leaving them on doorsteps and in lobbies without prior authorization.

Yellow Pages businesses could contact consumers by email, direct mail, telephone solicitations, or in person to ask if they would like the directory. If the answer is positive, the telephone directory can be delivered. Consumers could also pick them up at a distribution center.

Unsolicited deliveries, however, could result in fines of up to $ 500 for each violation. The law would be enforced by the city’s environment ministry.

White Pages – whose general distribution is mandated by state law – would not be affected. Double white page and yellow page telephone directories are expected to comply with the new restrictions, if approved.

Both yellow and white pages publishers obviously care about the law. When Seattle suggested a similar ban last year, publishers sued the city, citing free speech concerns.

Phone books are of course a big deal for publishers, who fill the yellow pages with advertisements for services. But big books are also responsible for even larger amounts of trash: Rachel Gordon of The Chronicle cites Product Stewardship Institute estimates that local governments spend about $ 54 million annually on getting rid of junk phone books, and $ 9 million extra dollars per year to recycle them.

Read the full article in the Column and let us know in the comments below: In the age of Google (or Bing, or Ask, or whatever), when was the last time you used the Yellow Pages ?

Photo CC-licensed by How can I recycle this?

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Calvin W. Soper

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