FAIRBANKS — The white pages may soon be going black for most Alaska telephone customers.
State regulators have backed a plan to do away with automatic distribution of residential phone directories in four urban areas, agreeing with the argument that printed copies of the white pages have become less necessary in the Internet era. In the future, many Alaskans will only receive copies of the residential directories upon request.
The Regulatory Commission of Alaska ruled Friday that it largely agrees with recommendations made by administrative law judge John P. Wood in October. Wood ruled that information found in residential phone books is typically available on the Internet and that the distribution of printed directories has become a source of customer frustration.
State regulations have previously required automatic distribution of white page directories, but Alaska Communications asked the RCA in June 2011 to reconsider that rule. After postponing its decision for a year, the RCA announced it will back the change to no longer require phone book deliveries in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau and the Kenai Peninsula on a three-year interim basis.
The decision only affects residential white-page directories. Government pages, business white pages and yellow pages aren’t part of the case.
Alaska Communications hailed the decision as a good
development for a customer base that has increasingly complained about a glut of phone book deliveries. The company also touted the environmental benefits of the change — in Fairbanks, nearly 15 million pages of residential listings were printed in 2011 alone, according to Alaska Communications.
“It’s the right thing for our customers and the environment,” company spokeswoman Heather Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh said it still hasn’t been determined whether Alaska Communications will immediately opt out of automatic distribution of its white pages or whether another cycle of deliveries will be made. The next batch of Alaska Communications white pages deliveries is scheduled for October 2013 in Fairbanks.
GCI, which is the other major land-line telephone company in Alaska, also testified in support of the change. A company spokesman couldn’t be reached Monday to comment on how GCI’s directory distribution will be affected.
Interior Telephone Company, which provides phone service to 10 areas throughout Alaska, said in a comment to the RCA that it plans to continue automatically distributing the white pages to its customers.
The RCA ruling requires companies opting out of the automatic deliveries let their customers know that only people who request a copy of the printed directories will get one in the future. Now that the ruling has been approved, Alaska Communications will begin planning a campaign to notify its customers about upcoming changes, Cavanaugh said.