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State says phone books not needed

Last week, state regulators ended a decades-old requirement that local telephone companies deliver printed White Pages directories each year to all of 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, according to a press release from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC).

Under the new rule, the commission 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 online for the kind of information the White Pages provide. Our action today eliminates tons of unwanted paper.”

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.

 

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