White pages can fall victim to technology

Booster seats. The door stops. Fodder for papier mache projects. It seems those thick phone books that land on most people’s doorsteps every year are used for just about everything except finding phone numbers.

If some state and local lawmakers had what they wanted, however, even those uses would be left out.

Under the legislation they hope to take to Sacramento in January, State Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco and Millbrae City Councilor Gina Papan would ban phone companies from producing and distributing pages. white unless people choose to receive them.

“We all know in these cost-conscious times, with growing environmental awareness, that we need to make sure that we don’t waste resources,” Yee said at a press conference at the hotel. of Millbrae town on Thursday morning.

“It doesn’t deny anyone the white pages – but a lot of people don’t want them.”

A California law in effect since 1995 requires telephone companies to provide free white pages to the address of every residential and professional landline.

In the 15 years since the California Public Utilities Commission enacted the rule, however, cell phones and the Internet have revolutionized the way people exchange information. In most cases, a phone number or address is just a few clicks away; phone book moulders around the corner.

“With more and more people turning to the Internet rather than flipping through these books… the phone book is coming to an end,” Papan said.

Customers can call their phone service provider and ask to opt out of phone book delivery, but groups that oppose large phone books say requiring people to sign up would ensure production of phone books. much less directories. They argue that the vast majority of households and businesses find phone books unnecessary, that millions of phone books end up in landfills every year, and that they are expensive to produce and recycle.

The bill would make a clear distinction between the white pages and the yellow pages. The ads and listings in the yellow pages represent a $ 14 billion a year business; the bill would not prohibit their distribution.

Yee and Papan said they would work with phone companies to separate white pages from yellow pages in cases where they are combined.

If California passed the law, it would become the largest jurisdiction in the country to restrict white pages. In Ohio, Cincinnati Bell offers a membership program and pilot programs are underway in Miami, Atlanta and Austin, Texas. In some of these areas, the membership rate is as low as 1%, according to Yee’s office.

Officials at AT&T, one of the Bay Area’s dominant telephony companies, said any comment on the legislation, which has yet to be drafted, would be premature.

Nonetheless, in both Florida and Georgia, AT&T has called on state governments to allow the company to stop delivering directories, citing environmental concerns, modern technology and changing consumer preferences.

Bay Area AT&T spokesperson Gordon Diamond noted that not all customers may be comfortable with the change.

“People certainly use online search activities, but we have to remember that some people are not online and they rely on white pages for local government information, international dialing codes”, a- he declared. “They are still a valuable resource for many customers. “

Are blank pages a waste?

Since 1995, California law has required telephone service providers to deliver white pages to the address of every residential and commercial landline. Some local and state lawmakers, however, claim that phone books are expensive and unnecessary in the Internet age. Instead, they support an opt-in measure in which customers should choose to receive white pages.

White Pages in figures:

147 million directories distributed annually in the United States.

5 millions destroyed trees.

$ 17 million in recycling costs.

16 percent of White Pages recycled each year.

660,000 tons in the waste stream.

Greenhouse gas reduced by three times when the phone book is not produced, compared to recycling.

Sources: Staff of State Senator Leland Yee, Product Stewardship Institute, United States Environmental Protection Agency, WhitePages.com

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Calvin W. Soper

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