Yee: Ditch the dead-tree phone books

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco introduced a bill today that would stop doorstep delivery of white-pages telephone directories in California unless a customer opts in to receive it.

rrrrrripThe California Public Utilities Commission since 1995 has included telephone directory delivery as part of the universal service all telephone companies must provide; the rationale was that providing free white pages would minimize calls to directory assistance and promote distribution of advertising.

“The requirement that phone companies must deliver the white pages comes from an era before the internet and other means of obtaining phone numbers,” Yee said in a news release today. “At a time when Californians are looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, we should give them that choice, particularly when very few customers still use the white pages.”

Under Yee’s SB 920, telephone companies would have to get a customer’s consent before a white page directory could be delivered; the bill doesn’t specify how, but Yee envisions a check-off box on the monthly bill or a toll-free number for customers to call. Cleveland and Miami have adopted similar local laws.

The Product Stewardship Institute says telephone books represent 660,000 tons of waste per year, with local governments bearing the costs to recycle or otherwise dispose of them. Yee cites a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report which says not publishing a phone book reduces greenhouse gases by about three times as much as recycling.

Yee’s bill is backed by Californians Against Waste, as well as by Phonebook Free SF, a grassroots effort to push a similar policy in San Francisco.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Arye Michael Bender

    Makes perfect sense as long as those without access to a home computer can opt to receive a phone book.

    It’s another painless way to help our environment.

  • Christine

    It would be nice if google would update business addresses. I think they uploaded that information once, and it is increasingly inaccurate. For example, if I type in ‘auto parts’ for my zip code, the first listing is a Pep Boys store that has never been there since I moved in three years ago.

    Likewise, I wish the local shoppers ads would stop appearing in a pile in our doorway every week. It just sits and rots in the rain

  • JIm

    What about the multiple yellow pages that show up from non-at&t sources?

    And I agree on the junk mail.

  • Tammy

    This discriminates against the elderly and the poor. My mother does not have or know how to use a computer. She is not going to be able to go online and opt in. I hate Yee anyway for trying to sell the Cow Palace and turn it into condos.

  • MJ

    This is a great idea. White papers are useless anyway as most numbers are not listed.

    As long as they have a number to call to opt in, the technology-challenged and poor should be fine. Even if one had to jump online to opt in, is it so hard to go to the library or find a relative/friend that would assist as opposed to whining about it.

  • tammy is a moron

    Hey Tammy, ya moron. Read the story. The opt in is on the bill and so is a phone number to call.

  • jim

    What about the worst offenders, all the crappy “yellow pages” that show up half a dozen times a year or more. I don’t want them anymore and I don’t know anyone who does.

    And while Yee’s at it, how about a law to stop all the damn Chinese, Indian, pizza, etc. menus that get put on your door REGARDLESS of the fact that you have a multilingual sign out asking them not to leave menus.

  • Joey D.

    KQED’s California Report discussed this on 8 January and advised listeners to go to http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com to request that delivery of telephone books (including White Pages) be stopped. I was unable to complete the request due to a website error but was able to place a verbal request by calling AT&T directly, although the telephone number of the office responsible for such requests was not easy to find. I believe Opt-In is the way to go.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Again the Deserving Poor! They are entitled to White Pages and Yellow Pages as long as they desire them. As for the lazy, shiftless Undeserving Poor, they can fulfill their needs by copying phone numbers posted on traffic signs, payphones and utility polls.

  • Elwood

    Re: #7

    “you have a multilingual sign out asking them not to leave menus.”

    Unfortunately, the menu distributors are probably illiterate in several languages.

  • John W.

    Good resource for directory assistance is http://www.anywho.com. Owned by AT&T. Includes reverse lookup, where you can input a phone number and find out to whom it belongs.