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

believe that USPS is not receptive to such pro
posals, and question why Western Union
should receive special accommodation. It is
not clear whether physical constraints and
economies of scale would permit the location
of equipment from a large number of carriers,
or that a large number of carriers would find
such an arrangement to be cost effective. This
question deserves further study.
In E-COM, USPS does not provide space in
SPOs for carrier hardcopy output devices. In
stead, USPS owns and operates its own print
ing equipment and provides access facilities
to enable carriers to interconnect directly with
SPOs. USPS has purchased the interconnec
tion equipment and leases it to carriers desir
ing dedicated access at a monthly charge.
Some carriers are not happy with the relative
ly limited capabilities of the E COM equip
ment. According to USPS, the selection of E
COM equipment was made by RCA, and was
judged to be the best technology available off
the shelf that met USPS requirements. Con
gress could request an independent review of
the technology selected.
Electronic Transmission
to SPOs
The role of USPS in the telecommunication
portion of EMS has proven to be controver
sial. USPS originally proposed to initiate its
E COM service using a telecommunication
network leased from Western Union. That is,
USPS would have provided telecommunica
tion as well as printing, enveloping, and
delivery. In December 1979, PRC recom-
mended an alternative plan under which USPS
would not own or operate a telecommunication
network, but all telecommunication carriers
would be permitted to interconnect with
E COM at the designated SPOs. In April
1980, on remand from the USPS Board of
Governors, the PRC explicitly recognized the
'The monthly charge per sPO ranges from $102 to $412, de-
pending on the type of equipment. See "Telecommunication
Connection Arrangements for Postal Service Electronic Com-n
puter Originated Mail (E COM) Service and Innovation for
Capacity Planning Cooperation, " Federal Register, vol. 46, No.
199, Oct. 15, 1981, p. 50882.

Ch. 8-Congressional Policy Considerations * 91
authority of USPS to contract with a telecom
munication carrier to transmit messages elec
tronically on behalf of USPS.2 However, PRC
conditioned this authority on a showing of
demonstrated need, a term that has not been
clearly defined but presumably implies a situa
tion where the needs of E COM users could not
be met adequately through the telecommuni
cation services of private carriers. The Gover
nors have accepted this condition.'However,
some carriers are concerned that the ambigui
ty of this condition could be used in the future
to, in their opinion, improperly and unjusti
fiably permit USPS to contract with a carrier
(or carriers) to provide electronic transmission
on behalf of USPS. Congress may wish to clar
ify the definition of demonstrated need.
Electronic Delivery
to Recipient
USPS has not proposed, nor have the Gover
nors or PRC considered, any EMS service
whereby USPS would provide electronic de
livery of mail directly to the recipient. USPS
has stated repeatedly that it "will not provide
'Generation III' services which transmit mes
sages all the way through telecommunica
tions."4 However, some consumer advocates
and researchers have suggested that electronic
delivery might be justified to maintain USPS
service levels in geographic areas where con
ventional mail service could no longer be main
tained at present levels. Congress may wish
to examine what, if any, conditions would con
stitute a demonstrated need for USPS involve
ment in electronic delivery (presumably by
contract with private Generation III EMS
firms). Any USPS role in Generation III would
have to be carefully defined to avoid either the
appearance or reality of competition with
private firms and the substantial controver
sy and opposition that would likely generate.
'Further Recommended Decision, docket No. MC78 3, Postal
Rate Commission, Apr. 8, 1980.
'I bid., pp. 4 9; Decision of the United States Postal Service
Board of Governors, docket No. MC78 3, Feb. 22, 1980,
4Mar. 12, 1981, letter and position paper from Edward E.
Horgan, Jr., of USPS to Sen. Barry Goldwater.

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 October 31, 2014.