USPS ups online services

The U.S. Postal Service, in yet another effort to find an Internet foothold,

has increased its portfolio of online services by making it possible to

send and receive certified e-mail.

The Post Electronic Courier Service, (PosteCS), made available May 10,

notifies senders when a document has been sent, when the recipient has been

notified and when the recipient has opened the document.

Customers do not dial into an Internet service provider, as they normally

would, but into a USPS data center. The Postal Service is hoping that the

PosteCS will appeal to people or businesses that want the speed of electronic

messaging without giving up the reliability of USPS' standard certified

mail service.

"PosteCS brings the trust, security and peace of mind that the Postal

Service brand is known for to the area of global electronic communications,"

said John Nolan, deputy postmaster general. USPS is offering a free, 30-day

trial of the service that soon will cost $1.70 per transaction.

Customers can access the service on the World Wide Web at www.framed. usps.com/postecs.

Once a document is sent, it is stored on a USPS server and given its own

Web address. The intended recipient gets an e-mail notification that a document

has been sent to them and that it can be accessed via the URL provided.

USPS is not the first entity to offer such a service. The Canadian postal

service has been using the same technology since late last month, and American

Greetings has been sending electronic greeting cards in this manner for

more than a year.

The PosteCS system is the latest in a series of online services USPS

has offered customers in an attempt to maintain revenue as people move

from handwritten letters to electronic messaging, said William Kovasic,

a procurement lawyer and visiting professor at George Washington University

who specializes in USPS. "[USPS'] future is at risk without change," he

said.

USPS announced April 5 that it would immediately offer customers the

option of paying bills online through a secure Web portal. Two weeks later,

USPS began offering electronic postmarks that can be attached to any Internet

communication and can protect documents by detecting if a document or file

has been tampered with in transit.

USPS is using Tumbleweed Communications Corp.'s servers, software and technology

to offer the certified e-mail service.

"Tumbleweed technology and services have been implemented to provide

confidentiality and security to users," said Mark Pastore, Tumbleweed's

vice president of corporate development. "Tumbleweed has a robust Internet

message server that can handle high volume in a secure architecture that

includes privacy, authentication and tamper notification."

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