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New rule means no more White Pages on doorsteps – unless you want one

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Say goodbye to the sight of phone books being left on your doorsteps ... that is, unless you really want one.

Starting next Monday, the majority of phone customers across Minnesota will be given a choice of whether they want a physical copy of the phone directory, or whether they want to access it electronically.

It follows a variance of state laws granted by Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission to CenturyLink last year, allowing the 270,000 households it serves in Minneapolis to opt in or out of getting a White Pages directory book.

This has been expanded to include other providers, with the PUC saying in an announcement Thursday: "A customer of a local service provider which makes this information available electronically may choose to receive their directories in this manner."

"The new rules provide that individual customers who prefer to receive printed directories can continue to do so," it adds.

Previously, it was mandatory for Minnesota telecom providers to deliver White Pages to each of its customers, but phone books have become increasingly marginalized since cellphones and the internet make it far easier to store and look up numbers.

The New York Times reported in 2011 that only 30 percent of Americans actually use the White Pages. For the most part, phone books are never opened and wind up in the recycling bin, and those that don't cause a public nuisance by piling up on the streets.

"Making electronic directories optional, but not mandatory, best balances the interests of recognizing current means of obtaining information and also reducing waste with the interests of providers and customers who still value printed directories," the PUC said.

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