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Phone firms ringing up the charges
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What is the price for privacy?
At AT&T it’s $1.75 a month while Verizon charges $2.25 a month.
That’s the price of having an unlisted phone number for a land line. It keeps your phone number out of the phone book and online directories.
Not that it matters much anymore – at least with Verizon.
Verizon recently delivered its Manteca-Tracy phone book — actually more the size of a phone magazine — to Manteca homes. They could have slipped it under the door given how the once robust publication has become downright anorexic.
Verizon long ago dropped residential listings from its white pages. They still list business phone numbers that appear to be in the same size type as a footnote to the fine print of a legal document. The listing and numbers are difficult to read even with a magnifying glass. That comes as a slight surprise since the cover has relatively big type proclaiming “LARGER PRINT!”
The government listings are slightly bigger so that might be what the cover is referencing. The numbers listed for City of Manteca phone numbers are wrong as the city switched to a different prefix more than five years ago. It’s now longer “239” and is actually “456”. The good news is you can still dial the old number and get the “new” number.
Just the other day the AT&T Tracy phone book was tossed in my driveway. It still includes residential listings that happen to be in bigger type than “LARGER PRINT!” that Verizon brags about in its phone book.
To be honest, the two phone books are going into the blue recycling Toter.
There was a time not too long ago that phone books in many homes were held in reverence much like the Bible. In a sense, the phone book was a bible or sorts as it had a wealth of information of how to contact people.
People in a household would argue over who got the new phone book and who got last year’s phone book. Accidently tearing a page would bring down the wrath of others. And after 12 months of use phone books thanks to the thin paper they are printed on would be severely tattered.
That’s no longer the case. I have no use for Tracy residential listings and the Manteca book is useless to me without home phone numbers. I asked two other people. Both said they actually tossed the phone books the same day they were dropped on their porches.
Fifteen years ago is you misplaced the phone book it would have brought down the wrath of everyone else in your family. Now no one misses it.
Paying Verizon $2.25 a month or $27 year to not have your number listed would seem pretty extravagant given today’s world. While there are no residential white pages to be “unlisted” in, you might think it is superfluous to pay such a fee. There are, however, online directories and lists phone companies sell to America’s beloved telemarketers.
One would think it would be cheaper for the phone company not to publish your number since Verizon essentially no longer does — at least in the phone book.
And even if you want to stay off online lists and pages of numbers sold to telemarketing firms, how can Verizon justify charging you $27 a year? They say it’s the cost of database management. But even if they paid somebody $15 an hour with benefits to manage the databases to exclude numbers, does it really take an hour time of one employee to keep one number out of directories? At $22 an hour for wages and benefits that would still allow the phone company to pocket $5 a year in pure profit for every unlisted line request. That $27 a year charge for an unlisted number is more than a one month charge for basic residential service.
Compared to AT&T, though, Verizon is downright reasonable.
First, AT&T charge $1.75 monthly on a reoccurring basis or $21 a year to not have a number published in the telephone book. Back in 2006 before the California Public Utilities Commission deregulated such charges, AT&T back then charged 28 cents a month to keep your number out of published phone books. It represents a 525% increase in nine years.
Keeping your number out of the phone book is called “un-listing” your number by AT&T. But if you want it to be “unpublished” — in other words not sold to telemarketers — you have to pay over $4 a month. That’s $69 a year to have you number not listed and not published. How can it cost the same as almost three months of basic residential landline service?
Little wonder that close to 50 percent of American households no longer have landlines.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.