Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service Page: 4

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

to help Congress better understand the possi
ble implications of EMS for USPS, and is not

intended to make a prediction of the future
course of events.

USPS Mainstream

To a substantial extent, the volume of
USPS delivered mail in the future is beyond
the direct control of USPS. It will be affected
by diversion to electronic modes of "written"
communication (EMS and EFT), by overall
economic factors, and by competition from pri
vate message and parcel delivery systems.
Taken together, it seems clear that two thirds
or more of the mainstream could be handled
electronically, and that the volume of mail is
likely to peak in the next 10 years and fall
below today's level sometime in the 1990's.
EMS penetration of the mainstream will be
paced by the introduction and widespread use
of technologies such as high quality electronic
printers, office automation, home computer
terminals, viewdata/teletext, and inexpensive
home hardcopy terminals. EFT will be paced
by the increased use of automated teller ma
chines and point-of-sale terminals, and con
solidation of bills and payments through tel
ephone bill payer, debit cards, and direct de
posit. In the long run, both EMS and EFT are
likely to be possible over the same electronic
terminals and communication networks. But
in the shorter term, they are separate technol
ogies. EMS itself has two distinguishable
modes Generation II EMS (electronic input
and transmission with hard copy output) and
Generation III EMS (all electronic). This di
version of mail from conventional paper based
to electronic form is likely to stretch over
many years and probably decades, depending
on the rate of technological advance, on future
postal rates, on regulatory constraints, and in
part on intangible factors such as consumer
acceptance and institutional marketing strat
OTA made several estimates of the rate of
diversion of conventional mail to EMS and
EFT. Mail diverted to Generation III EMS
and EFT was assumed lost to the USPS mail

stream. Because of the need to sort and deliver
the hardcopy output from Generation II EMS,
mail diverted to Generation II EMS was as
sumed to remain in the USPS mainstream.
Mailgram and E-COM are Generation II serv-
ices. In all of 1980, about 40 million Mailgrams
were sent; in the first half-year of its existence
(January through June 1982), about 660,000
E COM messages were sent. During July
1982, E COM averaged about 172,000 mes
sages weekly. USPS also delivers an unknown,
but small, number of letters that represent the
hardcopy output of private sector Generation
OTA did not independently estimate overall
future economic growth or competition from
private delivery services; representative past
growth rates of the USPS mainstream were
projected into the future. For example, the
USPS mainstream has grown by about 2 per
cent per year if averaged over the 1900 77
period, and 3 percent over the 1947 77 period.
In 3 of the last 4 years, the growth rate ex
ceeded 3 percent. However, between 1971 and
1976, the growth rate was only about 1 per
If the recent 3 percent growth rate held for
the next 20 years, USPS conventional mail
would exceed the 1981 level (110 billion pieces)
until the mid 1990's, even in the face of com
petition from high but plausible EMS and
EFT growth. Assuming that USPS delivers
the hardcopy output from Generation II EMS
in that timeframe, USPS total deliveries would
exceed the 1981 level until the turn of the cen
tury. Similarly, at 2 percent annual growth,
and the same conditions, USPS conventional
mail volume would exceed the 1981 level until
about 1990, and total mail until the
mid 1990's.
OTA conducted several sensitivity analyses
to determine the conditions under which the

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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.]. ( accessed December 15, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library,; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.