Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service Page: 97
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Ch. 8-Congressional Policy Considerations *97
Maintain Oversight and Initiate Planning on
USPS Long-Term Viability
While the immediate focus is on E COM,
providing a clear direction for USPS involve
ment in EMS and resolving current regulatory
problems and delays, EMS issues are likely to
be with Congress for many years. Issues will
be driven by the impact of EMS on USPS, the
role of USPS in EMS, and the broader impact
of EMS on American society and the public
at large. For a discussion of these broader im
pact areas, see the related OTA report on
Computer Based National Information Sys
As the historical (and legal) distinctions be
tween conventional and electronic mail are
blurred by technological advances, Congress
will be called on to maintain oversight and in
itiate planning on the long term viability of
USPS for all the reasons cited in chapter 7.
At present, it is difficult for USPS to con
duct effective long range planning with re
spect to EMS, since this requires good work
ing relationships with private telecommunica
tion and computer firms, many of whom have
been and/or are adversaries of USPS. If some
clearer consensus can be reached on the direc-
tion and limits of USPS involvement in EMS,
perhaps a more constructive relationship with
the private sector can develop.
USPS reports that the EMSS concept ises
sentially on hold, and that a new or modified,
and more incremental rather than total sys-
tems, approach to planning may be adopted.
Given the dynamic nature of the telecommu
nication and computer industries, USPS can
hardly be expected to develop the best concept
for its own role without the flexibility to test
and try out various alternatives, on a limited
basis. In most successful private firms, the in
troduction of any major new product or serv
ice is preceded by a long series of research,
development, and market testing of several op-
tions to hopefully arrive at the one that is most
competitive and cost effective. At present, reg
ulatory and institutional constraints make it
very difficult for USPS to experiment. In any
realistic sense, E-COM should be viewed as an
experiment, designed to be modified as operat
ing and market experience identifies areas for
improvement or change. In a more supportive
climate, USPS might conduct some joint tech
nical and market tests with various private
firms in different parts of the country. The
results could then help guide the evolution
from Mailgram and E COM to a long term
partnership with the private sector that recon
ciles the statutory mandate of both the Postal
and Communications Acts to the ultimate ben
efit of the American public.
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United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service, report, August 1982; [Washington D.C.]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc39480/m1/102/: accessed May 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.