Residents of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus who want residential White Pages must now specifically request a copy from their telephone company.

Residents of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus who want residential White Pages must now specifically request a copy from their telephone company.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has allowed Cincinnati Bell and AT&T Ohio, along with competitive telephone providers in AT&T's service area, to discontinue automatic distribution of the directories to customers.

Business and government listings along with consumer information will be included in the Yellow Pages directories, which will continue to be distributed automatically to customers.

The office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel opposed a swift elimination of the delivery of residential White Pages directories to all but those consumers who proactively request a copy.

Based on statewide data from Connect Ohio, a public-private partnership to increase access to broadband technology, approximately 25 percent of Ohioans have no computer while approximately 30 percent lack access to the Internet, the telephone companies' alternative to using the traditional phone book for reference.

Many residential consumers have relied on the White Pages for decades.

While some customers might have little need for a printed directory, the OCC believes the telephone companies' plans to limit distribution only to those who request directories are too restrictive.

Instead, the OCC recommended that consumer protections be in place so that all customers will continue to receive a directory unless they instruct the company that they do not need a copy.

The OCC recommended that the PUCO require a gradual transition period, so that consumers would be automatically provided directories for at least the next two years, if not longer.

During this period, consumers would be provided with adequate notice about the potential upcoming change and would be invited to address their concerns to the PUCO and to the OCC.

Most of the consumer protections advocated by the OCC were not adopted by the PUCO, including notice to AT&T customers beyond that provided in the Yellow Pages directories. The PUCO's decision allowed AT&T and Cincinnati Bell to move forward with their proposals to scale back delivery of the residential White Pages directories.

Customers in Columbus can request new directories or a CD-ROM by calling 1-800-346-4377.

Customers requesting that an AT&T White Pages directory be delivered should generally expect to receive the directory in about 14 business days.

AT&T's directory listings also are available through www.RealPagesLive.com and www. YELLOWPAGES.com.

The OCC encourages all consumers to recycle old telephone directories.

For information, consumers can contact local solid waste authorities in their area.

Janine Migden Ostrander is the Ohio consumers' counsel.