Sprint drops out of wireless phone directory for now

| 1/17/2005

Sprint will not add the phone numbers of any of its users to the national wireless phone directory now under development, a spokeswoman confirmed.

However, Sprint spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh said Sprint is continuing to work with other wireless companies in developing the directory. By staying involved in the development, Sprint could join at a later date.

However, at least in 2005, the Overland Park, KS-based company will not take part in the actual directory.

A significant number of truckers use Sprint PCS cell phone service, and the announcement that the directory would be developed was not well received among many of them.

Other carriers that are involved indicated they may launch in 2005.

Walsh said a number of factors led to Sprint’s decision.

“There was a lot of media attention paid to this subject and a lot of misinformation about how this wireless directory would be delivered,” Walsh said. “We would be carefully watching and guarding people’s privacy.”

For example, the plan all along was for cell customers’ numbers to be added on an opt-in basis – meaning that your number would not be in the directory unless you asked for it to be listed.

Another problem was legislation passed in California that restricts the ways wireless companies can add people to a directory like the one under development.

According to the California General Assembly Web site, the new law – passed as AB1733 and signed into law Sept. 24, 2004, – would not allow any wireless phone company from placing a subscriber’s name and phone number in any directory unless it had a written signature.

Walsh said the law would prohibit using digital signatures in place of written signatures.

“Because of all these different parameters and because of the possibility of more legislation from other states, we just decided we would hold off on launching it until some of that settled,” she said.

Sprint has not made its final decision on whether to take part in the directory at a later date, Walsh said.

Under the plan, the directory of cell phone numbers would be available only through 4-1-1 operators. It would not be published in phone books, or on Internet sites such as Switchboard or Anywho.

– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor