Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service

tronic mail services."7 In a July 1979 policy
statement, the White House agreed, stating
that "the national interest requires a Postal
Service which can serve all Americans and in
terface with the world's postal services effi
ciently and economically. The service has pro
gressively achieved productivity improvement
by mechanization and automation in process
ing of conventional mail . . . A postal EMS is
the next logical step to achieve further cost
reduction and mail processing improvement."
Over the last 3 years, the role of USPS in
EMS has been in dispute before various reg
ulatory agencies, the courts, and Congress.
USPS initiated E COM service in January
1982 after the USPS Board of Governors ap
proved the Postal Rate Commission's (PRC)
1980 recommended decision, with the excep
tion of PRC's "experimental" designation (of
E-COM as an experimental rather than a per
manent service) which was successfully ap
pealed by the Governors to the courts. How
ever, several private firms and the current ad
ministration believe that E COM as present
'Annual Report of the Postmaster Genera4 fiscal 1979, p. 6.
Administration Policy Statement, The White House, July
19, 1979.

Ch. 2-Background and Purpose of Study . 1 7
ly implemented differs significantly in other
ways from the concept originally recom-
mended by PRC. A 1981 inquiry opened by
PRC to review what form of E COM USPS
should be offering was suspended after its
legality was challenged by USPS.
Comments filed before PRC jointly by the
Departments of Commerce and Justice and a
court challenge to E COM filed by Justice in
dicate that the current administration is not
supportive of E COM as presently operating,
or possibly of any USPS role in EMS that in
volves telecommunication, data processing, or
printing. This in part reflects continuing con
cern that E-COM places an independent Gov-
ernment agency (USPS) in competition per
haps unfairly and/or illegally with private
firms. Some of these firms believe that the de
mand for EMS can be met by private offer
ings, and that the USPS role should be re
stricted to the delivery of hardcopy output
from electronic message systems. Others are
concerned that in the future USPS may ex
pand its EMS role from printing, enveloping,
and physical delivery as in E COM to in
clude telecommunication and perhaps elec
tronic delivery as well.

Congressional Interest

The implications of electronic mail and
message systems for USPS, and especially the
role of USPS in EMS, have been and continue
to be a primary concern of congressional com
mittees with direct jurisdiction over USPS
and the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970,
i.e., the House Committee on Post Office and
Civil Service (and particularly the Subcommit
tee on Postal Operations and Services and the
Subcommittee on Postal Personnel and Mod
ernization) and the Senate Committee on Gov-
ernmental Affairs (especially the Subcommit
tee on Civil Service, Post Office, and General
Services).
The role of USPS is also of interest to the
committees with jurisdiction over telecom
munications to the extent that USPS becomes

involved with an EMS service that is subject
to the Communications Act of 1934, in whole
or in part. These committees include the
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
(and the Subcommittee on Telecommunica
tions) and the Senate Committee on Com-
merce, Science, and Transportation (Subcom
mittee on Communications). In addition, other
committees, such as the House Committee on
Government Operations Subcommittee on
Government Information and Individual
Rights, have an interest in the privacy, com
petitive, and related implications of a USPS
role in EMS.
Despite a variety of legislative initiatives in
recent years, Congress has yet to agree on a
clearly defined EMS role for USPS. H.R. 2813,
introduced in the 97th Congress, would require

United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc39480/. Accessed September 18, 2014.