Benefits of Cutting White Pages Distribution

After asking why so many states get involved in TelCo activity (requiring that phone books get distributed in hard copy, even over phone companies’ vigorous dissent), here are some statistics on the phone books themselves.

First, a list of reasons why states should permit phone companies to switch to electronic-only distribution:


– Significant amounts of paper and ink could be saved. Verizon estimates they use 17,000 tons of paper each year printing phonebooks.

– Estimates indicate that 5 million trees are cut down yearly to print the white pages.

– According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), old editions of the white pages generated 840,000 tons of waste in 2008; only 20 percent of phonebooks were recycled.

Meeting Decreasing Demand

– More and more people are using cell phones instead of landlines. In 2008, 20 percent of  Americans did not have a landline.

– Cell phone numbers are typically not listed in the white pages. As a result, many people find that the white pages are not as useful as they once were.

– Many people do not use or want printed copies of the white pages. AT&T estimates that in places where they have been allowed to implement opt-in distribution, only 2 percent of customers have asked for a printed copy.

– Most residential pages listings are already easily available online, free of charge, at websites such as With 74 percent of Americans with internet access at home, many Americans can easily assess online white pages


– Printing the white pages costs taxpayers nearly $17 million in recycling costs per year nationwide.

– No longer printing the white pages would result in an annual savings of this  money. The cost of printing the white pages, which is passed on to consumers, would also be  eliminated, with the hope of lower phone rate.

Compare all of this to what’s happening in the Yellow Pages industry. Yellow Pages operate to a tune of $17 billion in profit a year, and that’s with the strain of having to publish all of that white pages nonsense.

State mandates for phone book distribution — or at least leaving mandate decisions to the states, rather than operating on a national level — began in 1991 with the Supreme Court case Feist v. Rural, which

Finally, in this grab bag of phone book stats, the list of states that have adopted opt-in legislation for phone book distribution is at the very bottom of this report.