What's black and white and read all over? Not the white pages, which is why regulators have begun granting telecommunications companies the go-ahead to stop mass-printing residential phone books, a musty fixture of Americans' kitchen counters, refrigerator tops and junk drawers.
In the past month alone, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania approved Verizon Communications Inc.'s request to quit distributing residential white pages. Residents in Virginia have until Nov. 19 to provide comments on a similar request pending with state regulators.
Telephone companies argue that most consumers now check the Internet rather than flip through pages when they want to reach out and touch someone.
"Anybody who doesn't have access to some kind of online way to look things up now is probably too old to be able to read the print in the white pages anyway," joked Robert Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University.
Phone companies note that eliminating residential white pages would reduce environmental impact by using less paper and ink. It also can't hurt their bottom lines to cut out the cost of a service that rarely gets used and generates little beyond nostalgia.