[LINK] White Pages in California

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Sat Oct 31 17:20:48 AEDT 2009

White Pages may fall victim of technology

by Kelly Zito, San Francisco Chronicle, www.sfgate.com (snip)

Under legislation they hope to take to Sacramento in January, Sen. Leland 
Yee, and Millbrae Councilwoman Gina Papan, would bar phone companies from 
producing and distributing White Pages unless people choose to receive it.

"All of us know in these cost-conscious times, with growing awareness of 
the environment, that we need to make sure we don't waste resources," Yee 
said during a news conference on Thursday morning.

"This does not deny anyone the White Pages - but a lot of people don't 
want them."

A California law in place since 1995 requires phone companies to deliver 
free White Pages to addresses of each residential and business 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 only a few taps away; the phone book molders in the corner.

"With 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 the bulky directories say 
that requiring people who want them to opt in would ensure the production 
of far fewer books. 

They argue that the vast majority of households and businesses find the 
phone books unnecessary, that millions of phone directories end up in 
landfills each year and that they are costly to produce and recycle.

The bill would make a clear distinction between White Pages and Yellow 
Pages. The ads and listings in the Yellow Pages represent a $14 billion-a-
year business; the bill would not ban distribution of those.

Yee and Papan said they would work with phone companies to split the 
White Pages from the Yellow Pages in cases in which they are combined.

If California were to pass the legislation, it would become the largest 
jurisdiction in the country to restrict the White Pages. 

In Ohio, Cincinnati Bell offers an opt-in program, and pilot programs are 
under way in Miami, Atlanta and Austin, Texas. In some of those areas, 
the opt-in rate is as low as 1 percent, according to Yee's office.

Officials from AT&T, one of the Bay Area's dominant companies in the 
phone business, said that any comments on the legislation, which has not 
yet been written, would be premature.

Nevertheless, in both Florida and Georgia, AT&T asked the state 
governments to allow the firm to stop delivering the directories, citing 
environmental concerns, modern technology and changing consumer 

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

"People certainly are using online search activities, but we have to 
remember that certain people aren't online and they rely on the White 
Pages for local government information, international dialing codes," he 
said. "They're still a valuable resource to a lot of customers."

Are White Pages a waste? 

Since 1995, California law has required phone service providers to 
deliver the White Pages to the address of each residential and commercial 
landline. Some local and state legislators, however, say the phone books 
are costly and wasteful in the Internet age. Instead, they support an opt-
in measure in which customers would have to choose to receive the White 

White Pages by the numbers:

147 million directories distributed each year in the United States. 

5 million trees destroyed. 

$17 million in recycling costs.

16 percent of White Pages recycled each year.

660,000 tons in the waste stream.

Greenhouse gases reduced by three times when phone book not produced, 
versus recycled.

Sources: Staff for state Sen. Leland Yee, Product Stewardship Institute, 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, WhitePages.com 

E-mail Kelly Zito at kzito at sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?


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