Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service Page: 82
82 Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service
III EMS activity and the continuing economic
trends that work in favor of electronic mail
and against paper based mail, especially for
first class letter mail.
For an important institution the size of
USPS, 15 or 20 years is not an excessive lead
time for planning an orderly transition. It can
also be argued that changes are taking place
so fast in the so called "communications revo
lution" that by the time USPS actually experi
enced significant mail diversion, it would be
much more difficult to adjust if steps are not
taken in advance to avoid a crisis situation.
For example, while normal attrition may be
able to accommodate any necessary labor force
reductions over the next 10 or 15 years, after
that time necessary reductions may become
rather severe, particularly for volume sensitive
groups of employees such as mail handlers,
clerks, and part time employees. Maintaining
good employee morale and career continuity
would be difficult at best under these circum
As another example, significant mail diver
sion could undermine the ability of USPS to
carry out its primary mandate "to provide
postal services to bind the Nation together
through the personal, educational, literary,
and business correspondence of the people."2
Reductions in USPS delivered mail volume
could generate severe financial pressures
which would force service and labor cutbacks.
This could translate, for instance, into reduc
tions in the number of days of delivery, num
ber of collection points, or number of post of
fices. Such cutbacks could seriously disadvan
tage some postal customers who may not have
access to satisfactory electronic alternatives,
or whose mailing needs are not amenable to
On the other hand, the projections in chap s
ter 4 indicate that USPS still is likely to have
a significant though reduced volume of con
ventional nonelectronic mail in 2000 perhaps
70 billion to 75 billion pieces.2"Thus, it would
'"Public Law 91 375, sec. 101(a).
"Several studies have concluded that a significant volume
of paper-based mail will continue almost indefinitely. See Henry
B. Freedman, "Paper's Role in an Electronic World," The %tu>-
seem that, with orderly planning, enough of
the basic USPS infrastructure could be main
tained to provide adequate conventional mail
services, although at reduced service levels.
Also, new ways might be identified for USPS
to carry out some of the elements of its statu
tory mandate, such as to "provide prompt,
reliable, and efficient service to (postal)
patrons in all areas and to render postal serv-
ices to all communities," and to "provide a
maximum degree of effective and regular post
al services to rural areas, communities, and
small towns where post offices are not self-sus
training , 29
Generation II EMS might be able to help
USPS maintain adequate service levels to
rural and less populated areas that would be
unable to sustain cost-effective conventional
mail service at present levels under reduced
mail volume. Indeed, in some rural and very
remote areas where even Generation II EMS
delivery might be cut back, USPS might con
sider contracting with Generation III EMS
providers to assure regular electronic delivery
to individual homes and offices or, at a min-
imum, perhaps to provide self-service elec
tronic hardcopy printers in post offices or
other public locations. Of course, Generation
III EMS providers may find it profitable to
provide such services on their own without
any USPS involvement. These possibilities
warrant further research.
Generation II EMS might also help USPS
maintain reduced rates for certain classes of
mail, such as educational and nonprofit mail
ings, that have been partially subsidized by
the annual revenue forgone appropriation from
public funds. Even if the revenue forgone sub
sidy is reduced, the cost advantages of Genera
tion II EMS over conventional mail might per
mit the continuation of a lower rate to those
many nonprofit and educational organizations
that depend on the mail for their livelihood.
ist, October 1981, pp. 11-16; and Robert W. Anthony, et al.,
An Exploratory Assessment of Computer Assisted Makeup and
Imagmg Systems The George Washington University Program
of Policy Studies in Science and Techology, Washington, D. C.,
Jan. 31, 1980.
"Public Law 91 375, Sec.101(a).
"Public Law 91 375, Sec. 101(b).
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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/m1/88/ocr/: accessed May 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.