- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Alaska telephone companies will not have to produce annual phone books starting in 2016.

A regulation signed by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot on Wednesday removes the requirement, the Juneau Empire reported (https://bit.ly/1Iw9CvG).

Phone books are getting thinner as people increasingly replace landlines with cell phones. The state’s larger phone companies have been pushing for the change since at least 2012.

“Our customers have told us they have less and less need for printed phone books,” said Hannah Blankenship, a spokeswoman for Alaska Communications.

Securities and Exchange Commission reports show the company started the year with 6,161 more landlines than it had by the end of the third quarter. The number of landlines at General Communications Inc. dropped by 4,900 between September 2014 and the same month this year.

A bill signed in 2014 removed phone book authority from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, which had required the directories since 1979.

Alaska Telephone Association Director Christine O’Connor says it is unlikely consumers will notice an immediate difference, especially in rural areas where small phone systems and unreliable cell service keep phone books in demand.

“What I’m hearing from them is their customers really want phone books,” she said.

A 2012 national study found 44 percent of households have replaced landlines with cell phones, which are excluded from telephone number indexes under the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“It’s a sign of the times and the technology changes,” O’Connor said.

Mallot’s action takes effect Jan. 1.

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com

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