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AT&T to test online White Pages

RALEIGH, N.C. — Start looking for a new doorstop.

AT&T Inc. said Friday it wants to try delivering its White Pages online rather than on front porches, noting the effort could save 4 million pounds of paper per year in two North Carolina test cities.

The San Antonio-based telecommunications provider petitioned the North Carolina Utilities Commission on Friday to allow the company to test the Web-based phone listings in Raleigh and Charlotte. Under the proposal, customers will still get the Yellow Pages — which AT&T says remains a much-used tool — and can request to get a hard copy or a CD-ROM of the residential White Pages.

The public can also call a phone number to access an AT&T directory.

Clifton Metcalf, an AT&T spokesman in Charlotte, said the company wants to try the idea in North Carolina before expanding it elsewhere.

"The potential is just tremendous," Metcalf said. "We're responding to what we've heard from consumers about wanting choices. At the same time, we're trying to be good environmental stewards."

The utilities commission requires phone providers to deliver a directory about once every year. AT&T wants to change that requirement so that it is only required to "publish" the listings.

Metcalf said internal research shows that customers rarely use the White Pages as they increasingly turn to the Internet for basic phone listings. If all customers in Raleigh and Charlotte switched to the Web-based version, AT&T estimates that it will save 4 million pounds of waste each year.

"AT&T's proposal is a creative and innovative approach to the problem of solid waste," said state Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake.

Metcalf declined to say how much money the company will save by changing the service.

Bob Bennink, the general counsel for the North Carolina Utilities Commission, said the agency will consider the issue at a mid-October meeting.