White Pages becoming obsolete in digital age

February 2, 2010 9:10:14 PM PST
When was the last time you grabbed the White Pages to look up a phone number? Many of us are likely to turn to the Internet instead, but not everyone. A proposal in Sacramento to limit who gets those telephone directories is being met with some skepticism.

"I don't think I've used the white pages in the state of California, and I've been here for three years," Bryan Clugston said.

"The last time I used it was probably two years ago because I go online," Trish Moseley said.

Tech savvy Californians are not using the White Pages as much as previous generations did. Some surveys show only 4 percent of us look up numbers the old-fashioned way.

"When you have technology now getting at that information, you start scratching your head wondering why are we still doing this?" State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said.

Yee just introduced a bill that would reverse the law requiring the phone companies to automatically deliver the White Pages to people's homes. Customers would have to opt in to receive it.

The goal is to be more environmentally friendly; more than a million trees are cut down for the directories, one-third of that for White Pages alone.

"This just represents a waste of paper, a waste of resources and ultimately a waste in our landfills; only 20% get recycled," Mark Murray with Californians Against Waste said.

Cash-strapped local governments end up bearing the costs of disposing the rest.

"The phone book industry opposes the restrictions. The Yellow Pages Association says the books are used 14.5 billion times a year across the country.

Some of that is for residential look-ups, and you do not have to look farther than a senior center to find folks who want their White Pages to keep coming.

"I am still going to use the telephone book to look up a number. I'm still going to a dictionary to look up a word," Bubbles Miguel said. "I am coming, kicking and screaming into the computer age."

"I use it all the time. I would say several times a week," Christine Hardiman said.

Committee hearings begin next month and California could soon follow in the footsteps of Cleveland and Miami.


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