OLYMPIA, Wash. - Utility regulators are on the verge of ending the automatic delivery of White Pages phone books to Washington households. Legislation to do the same in Oregon hasn't gone anywhere.
In Washington and Oregon, state law requires the local phone company to deliver a phone book to each landline customer. But telecom companies contend most consumers no longer want a printed copy of the White Pages dropped on their doorsteps.
Frontier Communications government affairs manager Carl Gipson made that case to state regulators in Olympia.
"If you look at other states that have implemented the opt-in approach, only about 2 to 3 percent of customers actually take the step to say 'I want this directory.' That saves a ton of money on production and distribution costs. That saves a lot of waste and recycling costs."
A proposal before the Washington utility commission would allow local phone companies to switch from automatic delivery of the White Pages to delivery on request.
In Oregon, two attempts in the state legislature to create an "opt-in" system for all phone books failed. Idaho's public utility commission repealed its mandatory White Pages distribution rule in 2010.
State utility regulators have purview over the White Pages because those directory listings have traditionally been considered an essential public service.
The yellow pages are different. An effort by the City of Seattle to regulate the distribution of unwanted yellow page phone books has turned into a free speech case. Thursday, the Seattle city attorney asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its recent ruling striking down the city's "opt-out" program.
On the Web:
Visit www.yellowpagesoptout.com to opt out of phone books from all publishers
White pages rulemaking (Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission)
DexOne power point presentation to Washington regulators (WUTC)
Oregon SB 525 - telephone directory opt-in
Phone books left om the street for recycling. Photo by Lulu Vision via Flickr