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

Performance Standards for
EMS Services
The current E COM service is designed to
achieve guaranteed 2 day delivery. Since 2 day
delivery is already guaranteed for conven
tional mail deposited within 600 miles of
destination, the time advantage of E COM is
primarily for cross country mail where normal
delivery is 3 days. Of course, mailers may
realize benefits other than time; for example,
reduced printing and enveloping or computer
processing costs. Still, some carriers and
mailers have argued that 1 day delivery, as is
available with Mailgram, would be preferable.
According to USPS, E COM could achieve
1 day guaranteed delivery if the number of
SPOs equipped with E-COM facilities were ex
panded from the current 25 to about 150. The
total capital cost is estimated at about $250
million (roughly six times the current cost of
E COM system design and implementation),
a substantial investment but considerably less
than the $1.5 billion to $2.0 billion originally
estimated by RCA for a nationwide electronic
mail service system (EMSS). However, it is

Ch. 8-Congressional Policy Considerations * 93
questionable whether E-COM volumes would
support this investment.
In 1978, USPS projected a volume of 230
million E-COM messages 5 years out. A more
recent Opinion Research Corp. survey commis
sioned by USPS projected a market of 500
million messages per year now and 1 billion
messages per year 5 years out. This latter pro
jection falls somewhere between the moderate
and high OTA projections.
Because of the uncertainty of such projec
tions, an incremental approach to expansion
appears to be warranted. For example, E-COM
(or some other alternative) could be expanded
in a small number of selected origin destina
tion pairs (e.g., Washington, D. C. San Fran
cisco, New York Los Angeles) to test the
feasibility of and market for 1 day guaranteed
delivery. An incremental approach would ap
pear to require more flexibility in the USPS
decisionmaking process (including regulatory
review) than is presently the case. Congress
may wish to consider some changes in the
Postal Reorganization Act to provide more
flexibility.

Reduce or Eliminate Further Regulatory and
Judicial Delay

The most important action Congress can
take to reduce delay is to provide clear direc
tion for USPS involvement in EMS, as dis
cussed earlier. A note of caution is in order.
If the direction set out is not well understood
and reasonably clear and does not reflect a
substantial consensus, further regulatory
disputes and litigation could result.
Additionally, Congress could: 1) clarify the
applicability of PES to delivery of hardcopy
output; 2) delineate the division of regulatory
jurisdiction between PRC and FCC; 3) man
date a separate USPS entity for any EMS of
fering; and 4) establish standards for protec
tion of privacy for EMS services involving
USPS.

Applicability of
Private Express Statutes
P E S9 restrict the delivery of letters by
organizations other than USPS. In general,
the private carriage of letters is prohibited.
PES give USPS the exclusive right to carry
"letters" over postal routes, with important
exceptions. One exception is an administrative
suspension for "extremely urgent" letters,
which permits private carriage if at least $3
or twice the applicable postage is charged or,
in certain cases, if delivery is completed within
'39 U. SC. 601-606; 18 U.s.c. 1693-1699, 1724. USPS
regulations implementing PES require that letters to be private
ly delivered over postal roads must be covered, sealed, dated,
and stamped.

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 1, 2014.