Directory assistance fees always have been a cash cow for telcos, but now several upstart service providers, such as Free411, are offering free directory assistance calls. AT&T announced today that it's doing the same.
But, the revenue gained from directory assistance won't be disappearing. Directory assistance, like so many other services, is moving to an ad-supported business model. Customers won't be charged for their information-seeking calls, but they will be required to endure audio advertising before getting the 411 on desired phone numbers. Market research firm The Kelsey Group says ad-based directory assistance will reap $462 million in revenue by 2012.