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Verizon to scrap its telephone book business in New York State

Verizon is scrapping its printed telephone books.

The telecommunications company, which dropped residential phone listings from its directories six years ago, won approval Thursday from state regulators to stop publishing and delivering its business telephone book to its customers. It will still make a book for those who request it, but that number is small, Verizon said.

The internet – and the rising use of cellphones, whose numbers aren’t included in the directories – have made traditional telephone books obsolete, Verizon said.

“All of the information is entirely online, which is where the vast majority of people go nowadays anyway,” said Ray McConville, a Verizon spokesman. “It saves money. It saves a tremendous amount of paper.”

Verizon had asked the state Public Service Commission for permission to stop publishing its business telephone book and distributing copies to all of its customers.

“The revolutionary changes to the telecommunications industry have made print directories outdated,” said Richard C. Fipphen, an attorney for Verizon, in a filing with state regulators.

Verizon said only 6 percent of people surveyed in 2014 by the Local Search Association said they used the white pages as their primary source of telephone listings.

Since 2010, when the company began making its residential listings available only to customers who requested them, the demand for printed residential directories has been so low that the company estimates less than 1 percent of all households in the state want a printed phone book.

Part of the problem, Verizon said, is the company’s phone books don’t include those who have dropped their landlines in favor of a cellphone or service through cable television and internet-based providers that don’t submit their customers’ numbers to be included in Verizon’s directories. The rise of internet-based search tools has also further weakened the demand for traditional phone books.

“There is no longer a need to mandate the blanket distribution of printed directories,” said Audrey Zibelman, the PSC chairwoman, in a statement. “Aside from not harming consumers’ ability to receive directory information, we now can avoid the unnecessary printing of paper directories, an environmentally sound option.”

Customers who want a printed directory can continue to receive one by contacting Verizon. The listings also are available online.

Verizon said it delivered 6.3 million business directories last year. The 2010 move to eliminate residential listings removed an estimated 13,600 tons of paper from the waste stream annually, the company said.

The PSC ruling applies only to Verizon. The 38 other companies that provide local telephone service in New York are still required to provide directories, unless they successfully petition the PSC for permission to stop.