No more telephone white pages — unless you ask

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission today announced that landline telephone providers will no longer be required to provide customers with printed “white pages” directories — those fat books with tiny print that listed, alphabetically, private and business customer phone numbers.

The reason, of course, is that few people today use them.

Companies will, however, be required to provide an electronic directory, presumably on the Web. And if a phone customer requests a printed version, the company must provide one.

“The change is expected to remove more than 300 tons of unwanted paper directories from waste and recycling bins annually, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 4,000 tons and saving local governments hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in waste-processing costs,” the UTC said in a news release.

The rule takes effect May 17. Here’s the official announcement:

State of Washington

Utilities and Transportation Commission

April 16, 2013

Docket number: UT-120451

State regulators eliminate automatic delivery of White Pages telephone books

OLYMPIA, Wash. — State regulators today ended a decades-old requirement that local telephone companies deliver printed White Pages directories each year to all their Washington customers.

The change is expected to remove more than 300 tons of unwanted paper directories from waste and recycling bins annually, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 4,000 tons and saving local governments hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in waste-processing costs.

Under the new rule, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) will require companies to make directories available electronically, and provide paper directories only to those customers who specifically request them.

The UTC’s decision doesn’t prohibit companies from printing paper directories altogether, noting a recent federal court decision acknowledging the companies’ First Amendment rights to do so. However, it directed any telephone company that chooses to publish paper directories to establish procedures by which customers can “opt out” of receiving them.

“The change is timely,” said UTC Chairman Dave Danner. “More and more, people go on-line for the kind of information the White Pages provide. Our action today eliminates tons of unwanted paper.”

The revised rule, Washington Administrative Code 480-120-251, becomes effective May 17.

The commission has jurisdiction over White Pages telephone directories because listings are provided as part of traditional telephone service. The UTC does not have authority over the business directories printed as yellow pages or paid advertising listings.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is the state agency in charge of regulating the rates and services of landline telephone companies operating in Washington.

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