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

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

a matter of hours. Many electronic mail serv
ices might qualify under this exception.
USPS regulations define a "letter" as a
message in writing" addressed to a "par
ticular person," and include electronically
transmitted messages when in hardcopy form
and delivered over postal routes.FCC,
among others, has claimed that PES do not
extend to physical delivery of hardcopy out
put from electronic communications, on the
grounds that such delivery is incidental to
electronic communications as defined in the
Communications Act of 1934 and therefore is
not subject to PES." In addition, FCC has
challenged a USPS proposal to redefine a pre
viously granted exemption for telegrams.
USPS had proposed to limit the exemptions
to telegrams "as commonly sent in the past
by other members of the public." Other forms
of hardcopy output from electronic communi
cations would not be exempt."2 Although this
proposal was subsequently withdrawn, USPS
has taken the general position that its long
standing exemption for telegrams does not
apply to other types of hardcopy output from
electronic transmission.
Some private firms dispute the USPS posi
tion, but to date no party has successfully
challenged the legality and applicability of
PES to the delivery of hardcopy output as de
fined by USPS regulations. On the other hand,
PES do not apply to end to end electronic com
munication of messages, according to recent
statements by USPS officials and USPS in
terpretation of PES. "The PES will remain ap
plicable only to 'hardcopy' letters."" "Mes
sages transmitted by wire or wireless or elec
tronically between sender and addressee are
not letters since the PES apply only to cor
poreal messages physically carried on post
routes." '" However, as discussed earlier,
messages so transmitted which are converted
to physical form and carried over a post road
I39C.F.R.152(1970) and USPS order 71-10.
"Mar. 12, 1979, letter to Louis A. Cox, USPS General
Counsel, from Robert R. Bce, FC Geneal Counsel0 3.
-2.Fed.Reg.60,616 (1978; 45 e g 59,8711
'"Horgan letter, Op. cit.
"USPS, Interpretation ofPES 1973report, P. 7.

before delivery are letters,""and thus are sub
ject to PES.
Nonetheless, some private firms question
not only the applicability of PES to Genera
tion II hardcopy delivery, but are also con
cerned that USPS may attempt to extend PES
to Generation III EMS. Congressional clari-
fication may be needed.
Regulatory Jurisdiction
Over the last 3 years, the question of which
regulatory bodies have what jurisdiction over
various USPS proposals for offering EMS
service has been considered extensively in
regulatory proceedings. In two court actions,
USPS has challenged the extent of appropri
ate jurisdiction as asserted by both PRC and
FCC.
By declaratory ruling, FCC asserted authori
ty under section 2(a) of the Communications
Act of 1934'to regulate parts of the original
USPS plan for E COM. This plan called for
USPS to contract for transmission and other
services on a sole source basis with a single
common carrier (Western Union) ."FCC ap
parently based its assertion on the grounds
that Western Union was already subject to
FCC regulation, and furthermore, to the ex
tent that USPS offered electronic communica
tion services, it was a "person" within the
meaning of the Communications Act and was
therefore itself subject to FCC jurisdiction.
USPS petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia for a review of the
FCC action arguing that, under the Postal Re
organization Act of 1970, PRC is the ap
propriate regulatory body and further that
USPS is not a "person" subject to the jurisdic
tion of FCC. On October 14, 1980, the court
dismissed the USPS appeal and vacated the
FCC ruling as moot for two reasons: 1) "the
contract between Western Union and the
"Ibid.
S47 U .C. $152(a).
"Postal Rate Commission, docket No. MC78-3.
"Federal Communications Commission Common Carrier
Docket No. 79 6; in the matter of request for declaratory rul
ing and investigation by Graphnet Systems, Inc., concerning
the proposed E-COM service.

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 July 10, 2014.