Recently AT&T made a request to the Louisiana Public Utility Service Commission, to stop the delivery of residential white pages to every home. Highlighting the growth of cell phones and the Internet, the company said “the traditional residential white page telephone directory no longer provides the same utility it once did as customers are now turning less and less to the residential white pages directory and are looking to online and other resources for listing information.”
That might be true if you have the digital literacy skills needed, and have a Smartphone with a data plan, or Internet access at work, or broadband and a computer at home. But what about everyone else?
Earlier this year the Louisiana Weekly published an article that said “subscribers to high-speed Internet services in New Orleans are generally white and in the higher income brackets.” In fact, data compiled by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University shows that Louisiana is ranked 44th out of 50 states in terms of broadband subscription, with just 51 percent of residents subscribing. You don’t need to be a math genius to understand that means nearly half of the state lacks reliable Internet access.
So what is this really about? Could it be about *insert shocked face* a larger profit margin for AT&T? Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell thinks so, and I agree. Foster opposes AT&T’s request, calling it “a moneymaking deal.” He rightly points to the fact that without a phone directory and/or Internet access, Louisiana residents will be forced to call 411—and pay $1.50 per call. This, in a state that has a poverty rate of over 18%!
The Louisiana Public Service Commission could vote on this request as soon as May 23rd—including their counter recommendation that white pages (or a paperless CD ROM) only be sent to people who specifically request it. Whatever happens—it’s worth following, because with the lobbying reach of AT&T, it’s fair to say your state could be next.