NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Phone-Book Delivery Disappearing

June 3, 2011

Phone books, long a staple of U.S. life, are fading quickly as lawmakers and phone companies see green benefits in limiting their delivery.

Most targeted are the residential white pages that list home numbers.  An increasing number of states are approving requests by phone companies, which want to stop delivering these unprofitable, generally ad-free books unless requested by land-line customers.

The result:   Many customers in half of U.S. states will soon no longer hear that multipound thud at their doorstep.

  • Verizon has received the OK to cease automatic delivery from 11 of 12 states where it has land-line customers and expects permission from California and the District of Columbia by the end of September.
  • AT&T expects, by the end of this year, to stop unsolicited delivery in 14 other states where it does land-line business.

The ad-packed Yellow Pages that list businesses are also a target.  To reduce paper waste and recycling costs, two U.S. cities recently passed ordinances restricting the delivery of Yellow Pages and at least five states are considering the same.

The lucrative Yellow Pages industry sued Seattle after it passed an ordinance in November allowing customers to opt-out of delivery.  It plans to sue San Francisco, which approved a law last month banning delivery unless residents ask for the books, according to Neg Norton, president of the Local Search Association, formerly known as the Yellow Pages Association.

"Directories are a form of free speech," Norton says.  A federal judge denied its request for a preliminary injunction in Seattle but the industry has appealed.

Norton says the laws are also unnecessary.  His group has set up -- akin to the "do not call" registry -- that allows customers nationwide to stop delivery.  He says few people use the residential white pages, but 75 percent use the Yellow Pages.

Source:  Wendy Koch, "Phone-book delivery disappearing," USA Today, June 2, 2011.

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