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The Phone Book Survives In Vermont As It Disappears Elsewhere

VPR/Steve Zind
The white pages are a thing of the past in New Hampshire and Maine. But in Vermont, FairPoint has no plans to discontinue printed residential white pages.

Once upon a time the phone book was an integral part of every home reference library; a source of emergency contacts, a map of time zones, a listing of area codes from here to Alaska – and all those phone numbers. 

But FairPoint Communications says it is no longer issuing residential phone listings in New Hampshire and Maine. However, the printed residential phone directory lives on in Vermont. At least for now.

Although the white pages, with their columns of tiny, squint-worthy type have disappeared in Maine and New Hampshire, there is an online version and customers in those states can request printed copies.

But in Vermont, the white pages directory, which is actually printed and distributed by Dex Media, is still sent to FairPoint customers.  

“We’ve certainly seen phone book usage – and quite frankly, demand for it – reduced as time goes by,” says Jim Porter, the director of the Public Service Department’s Division of Telecommunications and Connectivity.

That’s because more people are abandoning land lines in favor of cellular service from the national providers.  

When everyone had a land line, the phone book was an important part of the service provided by companies – and a bigger source of revenue.

“Back in the days when we rate-regulated the telephone companies, that was a revenue stream that was frequently litigated in how it was accounted for. Phone books used to get a lot more scrutiny than they do today,” Porter says.

To eliminate the widespread distribution of printed residential directories in Vermont, FairPoint would have to go before the Public Service Board and make that request.

Porter says to eliminate the widespread distribution of printed residential directories in Vermont, FairPoint would have to go before the Public Service Board and make that request.

“We’ve had no discussions about what their plans are in Vermont at this point,” he adds.

It doesn't look like FairPoint’s Vermont phone book will go the way of the phone booth in the near future.

Angelynne Beaudry, a spokeswoman for FairPoint, says the company currently has no plans to discontinue issuing residential phone books in Vermont.  

She says discontinuing the printed residential listings in New Hampshire and Maine is simply a case of the white pages going green.

The printed yellow pages will continue, she says, because most businesses still rely on land lines.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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