Do you rely on the White Pages phone book? Or is the Internet your only source of information on whom you need to call? Now state regulators are asking for your opinion on a proposal to do away with the tried-and-true phone book you get every year, without even having to request it.
Major Florida telephone companies have asked the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to change a regulation that now requires them to send all home-telephone customers a new White Pages every year. This change would stop “automatic delivery” of phone books, which means you would no longer get a new directory – you’d have to ask them to send you one.
The phone companies say that most information available in a phone book is also available online. They believe that the printed White Pages represent outdated technology and is too expensive to produce.
It’s a persuasive argument – if you’re a twenty-something who is perpetually online. If not, you may have a different view.
AARP Florida is concerned about access to what is often very important information for older Floridians.
“The White Pages contain important contact information, such as phone numbers for doctors’ offices and pharmacies,” says Leslie Spencer, AARP Florida Associate State Director for Advocacy. “It’s one thing to say that anyone can find the same information online. But it’s another for some people to actually find information online as easily as they can find it in a phone book.”
Some people – particularly Floridians of modest means – may not have Internet access, she adds.
“It costs money to buy a computer and pay for an Internet Service Provider (ISP), so people can’t always get online,” Spencer says. “It’s hard to find a reliable broadband Internet service for less than $40 a month. That may not seem like much for some, but if you are cutting back on expenses because of the recession, this expense can be an ‘extra’ that is too costly for your budget.”
People age 70 and older also tend to rely less heavily on computers than some others. This statistic will change as Baby Boomers grow older, and it will change even more as the computer-savvy Generation X ages, Spencer notes. “But AARP Florida believes we can’t leave behind the people who just aren’t comfortable using computers to find information,” she says.
AARP Florida wants Floridians to know that they can make their voice heard on this issue. The Florida PSC is conducting a survey to gauge customer response to this proposal.
“Even if you have Internet service and use online resources regularly, you may know friends or family for whom these resources aren’t as useful, for one reason or another,” Spencer says. “It would be great if you could reach out to them and share information about this survey – or take it yourself.”
The survey is available online.
For a paper copy, call 1-800-342-3552 and the PSC will send you a free postage-paid survey in the mail. It takes just a few minutes to answer the five questions and you can send it back at no cost to you.
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