By Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Canadian phone books are about to get a little less colourful.
The federal government has decided to stop publishing contact information for all of its departments and agencies in the blue pages section of telephone directories.
A newly released document says it doesn’t make sense to publish what often ends up being outdated information in the phone book when most people look for phone numbers on the Internet.
“Given that the government pages publication and distribution cycle takes approximately five months, most government of Canada information is out of date by the time it reaches Canadian households,” says a memo to Shared Services Canada president Liseanne Forand.
“Fewer than 50 per cent of departments and agencies update their information, with most preferring to communicate with Canadians through alternate channels such as the web and 1-800-O-Canada.”
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the document under the Access to Information Act.
The government says it can’t justify spending $3.1 million a year to publish the phone numbers of 115 departments and agencies in the blue pages.
“This service is very costly and is presently provided without any contracting vehicle,” the memo says.
“With the rise of the Internet, such mass print publication of government contact information has become inefficient and unnecessary.”
Yellow Pages, which publishes the telephone directories, says the last phone books with full federal listings were sent out in March.
Yellow Pages published the phone numbers of federal departments and agencies in the blue pages as a “legacy service that we provide as a contractual obligation to the telephone companies to distribute their listings,” company spokeswoman Fiona Story said in an email.
“We were not monetizing this in most of Canada as these were revenues associated to the telephone companies, not to Yellow Pages,” she wrote.
“The only exception would be Alberta and B.C., where the legacy agreement we took over stipulated that funds would go directly to the publisher, which was Yellow Pages.”
The company made about $1 million from government listings in those two provinces, Story added.
“Not a material amount for us, and we have no issue with the government’s decision to centralize their inbound calls to a single number, which we will continue to publish,” she wrote.
The blue pages section won’t completely vanish. Along with the federal government’s main toll-free number, provinces and municipalities will still list their contact information in the directories.
A spokesman for Shared Services Canada says the department has yet to receive any complaints about the dropped blue pages listings.
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