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

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

enveloping, as well as hardcopy delivery, ap
parently troubles portions of the computer in
dusty (particularly computer service bureaus)
because of concern over potential competition
from USPS and the belief that the industry
is willing and able to provide such services.
Should the USPS role extend to the telecom
munication portions of an EMS service, then
many telecommunication carriers would view
USPS as a direct competitor. Even with re
spect to E COM, where the USPS role does not
include telecommunication, some carriers are
concerned that it was designed to accom
modate future functions (e.g., magnetic com
puter tape input) that are not presently au
thorized. These carriers believe that any USPS
involvement in telecommunication, whether
directly or by resale, would be subject to the
jurisdiction of the Communications as well as
the Postal Act, and would constitute the en
try of a Federal agency into competition with
private industry. The computer service bu
reaus apparently feel the same way with
respect to USPS provision of message proc
essing.
Reaching a consensus on a role for USPS in
EMS has been further complicated by jurisdic
tional conflicts between PRC and FCC, PRC
and USPS Board of Governors, FCC and
USPS, and the Departments of Commerce and
Justice and USPS. These conflicts have come
to a head over E COM, resulting in legal ac
tions brought in Federal court by USPS
against FCC and PRC, and by Justice against
USPS. Various parties, especially telecom
munication value added carriers, have filed
briefs in these judicial proceedings, and before
FCC and PRC in regulatory proceedings on
E-COM, raising substantive issues of rateset
ting, potential cross subsidization, and pri
vacy, among others.
On the other hand, many of the private tele
communication and computer firms who have
been adversaries of USPS also believe that full
development of Generation II EMS depends

on a major role for USPS, but they disagree
with USPS on what that role should be. Vari-
ous mailer organizations, consumer groups,
and postal labor unions see a USPS role in
EMS as essential to USPS long term viabili
ty and to maintaining, or at least minimizing
any reductions in, mail services that are vital
to a large part of the U.S. population. They
point to the critical role of USPS in providing
a universal, low cost, nondiscriminatory na
tionwide communication service that is stat-
utorily mandated by Congress.
Based on interviews with many of the stake
holders and USPS, as well as a comprehensive
review of the historical record, OTA has con
cluded that, absent congressional action, the
controversy over the USPS role in EMS is like
ly to continue. Although the U.S. District
Court of Appeals has denied a Justice petition
to block E COM, further regulatory proceed
ings are anticipated and additional legal ac
tions are possible. With continuing uncertain
ty over the future of E COM, and in general
of the USPS role in EMS, the prospects for
a successful USPS entry into domestic EMS
services are uncertain. Some firms have in
dicated to OTA that they are reluctant to
make any major commitments until they are
certain what role USPS is going to have.
Meanwhile, many of the carriers continue to
put much of their research and development
effort into Generation III EMS, which would
completely bypass USPS. In addition, USPS
is unable to establish effective working rela
tionships with many private carriers and po
tential Generation II EMS users, given the
continuing adversarial atmosphere.
Should Congress wish to take action, there
are several major possibilities. Congress could:
1) provide a clear direction for USPS involve
ment in EMS; 2) reduce or eliminate further
regulatory and judicial delay; and 3) maintain
oversight and initiate planning on long term
USPS viability. These possibilities are dis
cussed below.

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 August 29, 2014.