It's The Law: AT&T Has To Give You A Phonebook

from the thanks,-government dept

AT&T has been testing a plan to distribute residential phone books on CD, rather than on paper. That sounds like a great idea that marries environmental benefits with cost savings, and could probably be taken a step further by only distributing the white pages in any format on request. Yellow-pages publishers are struggling as the web steals away their audience, and it’s hard to imagine the white pages gets much use any more, either. But there’s at least one obstacle standing in the way of the elimination of the white pages: laws in some states that require the company to publish and deliver a residential directory to every one of its customers. I’m hard pressed to remember the last time I used the white pages, and given that they don’t list cell phone numbers, they’re growing more and more irrelevant to many people. Burdening the phone companies with their production and distribution seems pretty pointless these days, not to mention the environmental impact of millions of the books, the vast majority of which are never used, and only a small portion of which are recycled.

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Companies: at&t

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Comments on “It's The Law: AT&T Has To Give You A Phonebook”

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53 Comments
R. Miles says:

Challenge the law.

Thanks for reminding me. We’re about to get 1 white pages and about 5 yellow pages, all of which are instantly thrown away.

Of course, if people really cared, all they need to do is contact the phone company and simply request an omission on delivery.

From that, the phone company can then challenge the law with customer (you know, The People) support.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Challenge the law.

I also get way too many phonebooks. It ought to be illegal to throw a pile of paper in someone’s yard. It’s just something else for me to clean up.

I also don’t care enough to spend 30 minutes on the phone explaining to the company why I don’t want their awesome product.

The only thing I hate more is when newspapers try to litter my yard with their trash/product. Probably twice a week I get something thrown in my yard.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Re: Re: Challenge the law.

Only twice a week? Man you are lucky! I get at least 9 papers of different kinds on my front lawn each week.

And I get over 5 different varieties of phone books from the The Real Yellow pages and white pages plus The Yellow Book, and other imitators.

I do recycle them but I get over 50 pounds of phones about every 6-12 months.

tubes says:

Re: Re: Challenge the law.

Reminds me of a couple Mitch Hedburg jokes.
“Whenever I walk, people try to hand me out fliers, and when someone tries to hand me out a flier, it’s kinda like they’re saying, ‘Here, you throw this away.'”
-or-
“I had a paper route when I was a kid, I was a paper boy. I was supposed to go to 2,000 houses… or 2 dumpsters!”

But seriously its kinda funny this was just mentioned. I was just talking to AT&T yesterday cause I am moving to a different house & they were telling me when I should receive my phonebooks I told them just to keep them I don’t want them or use them anymore & they said I have to have them.

DS says:

Re: Re: Challenge the law.

“I also get way too many phonebooks. It ought to be illegal to throw a pile of paper in someone’s yard. It’s just something else for me to clean up. “

Forget the phonebooks, that’s a once a year deal. It’s also nice to have a paper copy, just to be on the safe side. It’s the freakin free newspapers that tick me off.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Challenge the law.

That’s the point, they do it without a subscription. They are basically littering on your property.

I was outside one day and the lady yelled, “Compliments of the News and Observer” and threw it in my yard. I ran over and handed it back to her, and explained I didn’t want it. She was genuinely puzzled (no sir, it’s free) until I explained that I never read the paper and this is just trash for me to clean up.

Why can’t they just put it in the mailbox?

BTW, the Mitch Hedberg jokes fit perfectly. Funny stuff.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Challenge the law.

Not only do they throw it on the driveway (contrary to littering laws) but even in the plastic bag (more trash for the landfill) mine are usually soaked, swollen, and disgusting and a signal to thieves that I am not home to pick it up. I once had two phone lines so I get a double dose of trash to throw out.
I use the books from time to time, but I would prefer a single dry one delivered to the door or a card telling me to pick it up at a central location.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve NEVER liked using the phone book. It’s too much like using the library’s card catalog system: effective, but tedious. That’s why we invented computers; to do our searching for us. For at least ten years now I’ve thrown phone books directly into the dumpster. What’s sad is that I haven’t had a land line for about 6 years, but I still keep getting a phone book. Talk about waste!

A Librarian says:

Re: Re:

Not only are libraries the most important, quick, and effective way of getting reliable information, they can also teach you how to do so correctly. Relying on computers to do searching for you is a great way to get bad information that can result in losing money, not getting the job you wanted, or accidentally repairing your own car the wrong way. Contact your local library today! The library catalog is ON THE WEB. Try http://worldcat.org if you want proof.

anon says:

Right into the recycling bin

Phone books are such a waste. I get them at home and at my small business, and we haven’t used white or yellow pages since 2001. We don’t bring them inside – they go immediately into the recycling bins.

But keep in mind that there is a different imperative for yellow books. Because they are advertiser supported, the yellow book companies must demonstrate wide distribution.

They are both useless to most people.

Art says:

Some

People must have decent online directories. Personally I’ve never found online white or yellow pages to be as efficient as paper ones.

Sure the white pages have a few more numbers and seem slightly more up to date, but no more than I use them I can pick up a phone book and thumb to the correct page as quickly as I can open a browser window, type the url, select my area, type the name, and hit enter. That’s especially true, like an order of magnitude or more’s difference, if my computer isn’t already on.

The online yellow pages are far, far, worse than the carrier’s paper version. They’re full of advertising, cover way too broad an area, and so on. Hell, they’re on par with being as bad as all the third party area directories we get that don’t include half the local businesses but seem to include others from every surrounding county for 50 miles.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Some

I agree that people should be able to opt out of, or better yet, opt in for receiving a phone book. There is absolutely no reason why every desk in an office needs a phone book, one or two for each floor or area should suffice.

That said, I find paper phone books, especially yellow pages, far more effective than their online counterparts, especially if you are just browsing.

Rick says:

Re: Some

I agree on the online services. They’re horrible. They aren’t localized, they aren’t available in a browsable format like the phone book and most of them just want to ‘charge’ you to see the results.
Now they want to give us CDs? I’m just going out on a limb here, but my guess is this ‘CD’ is just an opportunity to install some type of spyware software on our PCs.
Ditch the CD idea. Duplicate the book as a browsable online application that runs in a browser without registration and allow us to easily opt-out of the paper version ONLINE. That’s the solution.

JB says:

Re: Some

I know the feeling, Art. I prefer to use the book rather than the online version. If I could have a digital version of the phone book for use on something like an eBook reader, then I might change my mind. However, I grab extra phone books to put in the trunk of my cars. You never know when you might need to look up some business or person while away from home and I don’t yet have an internet connected mobile.

xpo says:

If the power (or cable service) is out in your town for any length of time, you’ll be happy that you have a phone book and a land line.
Just ask the folks in the midwest who didn’t have power for weeks after a major winter storm.

How deep is your battery backup, 2 hours?

We don’t need a new phone book quite so ofter, but if I were you, I would keep one around. Just in case.

rob (profile) says:

Pretty silly.

I haven’t had a landline in 9 years, and still I get a white pages for all the cities for 30-ish miles around me, and a mound of yellow pages. They are literally removed from their plastic wrap and immediately placed in the recycle bin.

If Qwest instead gave me a DVD with all the white/yellow page info on it I might actually use it as an adjunct to the web.

Joel Coehoorn says:

cross platform

As long as the disc is readable and the software works in mac, linux, pocketpc…

It’s not that hard to do: just use a good file format and make sure the data is available as a csv file. But somehow I suspect they’ll also include a bloated windows-only program so they can also show you advertising next to the listings.

Vic says:

Here is a great business idea...

But it’s worth almost nothing, someone has to implement it. If (or, more precisely, when) they switch to CDs and other digital media for Yellow Pages there will be a huge market for a simple gadget that would be kept next to the phone. The gadget would read that digital media and show all the info on a small screen. Just some kind of a digital interface to translate from digital to human. I believe not everybody would go with that CD to their computers, they’ll need a dedicated gizmo.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I’m hard pressed to remember the last time I used the white pages.”

I know the audience for this site is self-selecting – you all might want to remember that not everyone has a computer.

Having said that, if the states don’t allow you the ability to opt-out of receiving a phone book, they should.

“…the vast majority of which are never used, and only a small portion of which are recycled.”

Can you prove these assertions? Or are you just assuming everyone behaves the same as you?

Rekrul says:

I still use the phone, but it’s becoming increasingly harder to do so.

It used to be that we got one phonebook each year. Now we get about 6-8. White pages, yellow pages, alternate yellow pages, yellow pages for other towns, etc.

Even so, I can never find what I’m looking for half the time. Case in point; I recently had problems with my ear and my joint doctor recommended that I see a specialist. The only ones I could find in the yellow pages under Ear, Nose & Throat were in other towns and wanted $200-300 just for an office visit. I ended up going to a walk-in clinic and the doctor there referred me to a local specialist who only charged me $105 to clear my ear and prescribe drops for an infection. I asked why he wasn’t in the book and he said he was, just not in the yellow pages. Ok, how am I supposed to know about him if he isn’t listed under the specific category that I need?

I wouldn’t mind having the directory on CD, IF the listing was in plain-text format that I could view and search using my own software. If they want to put a Windows only viewer on the disc, that’s fine with me, as long as you don’t actually need it to search the data.

Telephony FAM says:

Laws VS operations

Information is power.

If you’ve ever heard that phrase and believed it in any way. Then you’ll understand why there are laws requiring the phone company’s to do this. What if you could only call people or places who’s number you already had…

It’s easy to think everyone does as I/you do but there are plenty of people without computers.
Would you really force little old laddies to have to call in to get a phone book?

Or, for those who just have a desktop with no power back up. Look at what happened back in the east with the ice storms… I’ll bet a few of them used their phone books.

Yes, the law should support customers who opt to get it on CD or not at all.

Though the problem here isn’t necessarily the law so much as the way things are done. The phone company contracts a company to make the books. Then that company subcontracts to have them distributed. The subcontractors then often hire day-labors to deliver. Who are many times paid buy units delivered.
It just becomes simpler and more effective to give everyone a book. Then having to go back out weeks later to get those that where missed.

Now the yellow pages are a whole other mess. Basing there sales off how many go out on to door steps.

So laws or regulations that I’d support are ones requiring these companies. To have recycling initiatives for a set pound or tonnage delivered to any given area.

grapeshot says:

Very Young People Here

Cell phone usage is way up, no doubt, but not everyone has one, nor has everyone who has one also ditched their land line. Just try living through a several day long power outage, and you’ll immediately see the benefit of a land-line. And just because it’s never happened to you before, doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen to you. Only people who are very inexperienced at life think that bad things will never happen to them.

I’m with the people who point out that on-line yellow pages and search sites are of very limited use. They not only take longer to deliver results (i.e. turn on the computer, enter the search term, sort through the results) but they also provide incomplete results. Even something as obvious and simple as looking for pizza delivery provides incomplete results, or results for areas well out of my geographic boundaries. (like, say, several towns away, or even in a different state.)

I still use both the yellow pages and the white pages (and the government pages) as frequently as I’ve ever done in the past. Yes, it’s a nuisance to try and find people who have ditched their land-line, but on-line searches don’t work well for them, either. Nothing beats a phone book for speed and reliability of results, not to mention ease of browsing. Despite all the whining here, phone books are still commonly used by most households, and businesses.

A CD would be a pretty big handicap for that percentage of the population that doesn’t have computers, or isn’t on-line. This is not an inconsiderable amount of people. The ccallousness and indifference of the people here in this forum to those who for whatever reason (age or economics, say) are unable to keep up with the digital revolution is pretty astonishing. Having nearly complete agreement with the author’s point by commentators here does not actually prove the author correct, as this is an audience with a fairly limited perspective.

As for getting rid of the books that one doesn’t need, well, that’s just one small thing on the list of life’s annoyances. In my state, recycling is mandated, and every community provides curbside recycling. It hasn’t been any more difficult for me to get rid of my old phone books as it is for me to get rid of all my junk snail mail — which actually is considerably more in quantity and weight than the phone books I get rid of.

erm says:

some of us are more frugal than you

There are still a lot of people who don’t want to spend a lot of money each month on communications, or don’t feel the need to say in touch all the time.

I use a long distance provider (actually a reseller) that charges 3 cents a minute, less if you talk to somebody else that also uses them. I don’t make enough calls to justify signing up for a plan that charges me a fixed rate per month. I find the per minute costs of a cell phone ludicrous.

Where I live the main choices for Internet access are the cable company or DSL. I save a good bit by using DSL with a regional ISP. My main gripe is that I can’t get naked DSL, I rarely make local calls.

I like having a phone book. Most of the time when I lookup a number I’m calling a business. Typically I don’t know what business I want to call, and the additional information in the yellow pages is useful.

Sergio says:

Too young to relate

Hi, I’m almost 26 years old and have never used a phone book (for what it was intended for). When I moved out of my parents house a few years ago, I already had a cell phone, so I didn’t bother signing up for a land line. I cannot think of a time in my life where I couldn’t get a hold of someone, although phone communication is maybe 20% of how I communicate. If I ever need a service done (driveway paving comes to mind), I have never had any problems finding companies on-line or through word of mouth.

I’m not entirely sure if this may be due to living in Rhode Island. Here, there is absolutely nothing that is more than 30 minutes away. I live within a half hour of 5 malls, 9 super markets, 4 Wal-Marts, 3 Targets, 3 Lowes, and 2 Home Depots (and probably 500 Dunkin Donuts, I kid you not). Not to mention hundreds of small shops, mechanics, auto-body shops, hardware stores, barber shops, liquor stores, etc. Although I haven’t traveled across this country much, it’s my understanding there aren’t many areas like this. So, if I need something done, there are probably about 3 places that can do it for me that I drive by on a daily basis where I can just jot down their number

AH (profile) says:

Phone books thrown on yard destroyed by rain moisture

I have advertised in a few different Yellow Book pages. Yellow Book came to me this year, and right off the bat I explained that if they are thrown on my yard, in a bag where they fall out as pictures i have show, that i wasn’t interested. NOPE, we shrink wrap and mail. I signed the dotted line and bingo….many months later these books are strung out down the road on lawn banks, end of driveways…and many were destroyed because of the weather. I called and let them know. They informed me i was the only one in a 100,000 people area.
I have pictures and the books that are destroyed…anyone have this happen to them where the books are damaged due to the elements?

Gary dusza says:

Laws VS operations

What is the address of the distribution company that these phone books are coming from? I live in R.I. And have opted out in receiving these but I’ve been still getting them delivered, I have years worth saved so that I can dump a truck load on their lawn, if you give me private addresses of these executives that would even be better so that they can look out their window and say ” what the hell is that worthless piece of trash on my lawn. Lol! End of rant.

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