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Editorial: White Pages a victim of cellphone's success

Editorial: White Pages a victim of cellphone's success

No need for phone company to print so many directories

Cellphones are not only replacing land lines as the telephone hardware of choice, they’re making the traditional telephone directory superfluous, if not obsolete. So Verizon wants a break from the state Public Service Commission mandate that it deliver a directory of residential phone listings to all its phone customers. The PSC should grant it.

The White Pages are not what they used to be for a couple of reasons. For one thing, with so many people dumping their land lines in favor of cellphones (whose numbers are unlisted), the White Pages are far less comprehensive. And with cellphones’ ability to store phone numbers, users don’t have to commit them to memory or consult a phone book; they just check their phone’s built-in directory and hit “send.” And if they have to look up a number, there’s always the Internet.

Not surprisingly, a recent Gallup survey found that only 11 percent of households used residential phone directories in 2008, down from 25 percent three years earlier. Obviously, this trend is going to accelerate as more Americans get rid of their land lines — and carry handheld computers along with their cellphones.

Not having to print and distribute phone books in New York will save 5,000 tons of paper per year — a lot of trees — not to mention the energy associated with printing, binding and delivering them. The books will still be available on request — a good thing — and the Yellow Pages’ business listings, with government included, will still be distributed.

But on balance, with relatively few customers using the White Pages, and more people complaining about getting too many such books, giving Verizon a waiver on this requirement makes sense.

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