USPS unveils first approved Internet postage product

The U.S. Postal Service today announced the first approved Internet software product that will allow users to print postage from their PCs.

E-Stamp Corp.'s online software, called E-Stamp Internet Postage, allows users to log on to a secure E-Stamp server, order and pay for postage, download the postage and print it directly on an envelope. For the process to work, users need a PC, a printer, the E-Stamp software, an Internet connection and an "electronic repository" -- also provided by E-Stamp -- to securely store the postage.

Starting today the E-Stamp software will be tested by a small group of users in the Washington, D.C., area, but eventually about 500 users will test the product. Other companies are developing software, which also will be tested, but USPS declined to name them until the software is approved by the agency.

USPS Postmaster General Marvin Runyon said the agency's role in the program is to establish standards and ensure they are followed by vendors providing the software. Ultimately, the agency's goal, he said, is to create satisfied customers and "timely, consistent and affordable service." PC-based postage is the next step in providing better service, he added.

"Computer-generated postage has high potential," Runyon said. "[In particular], small and home businesses have been looking to buy postage over the Internet."

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