E-mail dogs Postal plans
- By William Matthews
- Oct 09, 2000
Like a sharp-fanged mutt, the Internet is nipping away at the U.S. Postal
Service, and the bites are beginning to hurt.
In a newly published five-year plan, the Postal Service warns that its
economic future is threatened by the increasing use of e-mail in place of
first-class letters, for billing and bill paying, and even as a replacement
for junk mail.
If e-mail and other types of electronic transactions establish a firm
tooth hold, the result could be a financial crisis that threatens the Postal
Service's ability to continue universal delivery service, according to the
plan signed by Postmaster General William Henderson.
"Home computer ownership, electronic communication networks and the
changing nature of personal correspondence threaten traditional letter mail,"
the Postal Service reported. E-mail is especially threatening to one of
its most lucrative services — the delivery of bills and bill payments.
Bills, statements and payments make up nearly half of the 102 billion
pieces of mail the Postal Service handles annually, and they generate about
$17 billion of the agency's $70 billion yearly revenue.
By 2004, e-mail, electronic funds transfers and other substitutes for
traditional mail are expected to cause the volume of paper mail to decrease
by 2 percent. "This apparently small change would have a significant impact"
on the Postal Service, which by law must not operate at a loss, the plan
The decline "grows significantly" from there, according to Postal Service
The trend is so certain that for the first time, the Postal Service
has adopted a long-range plan that does not assume that mail volume will
continue to increase as the economy grows. Instead, it warns that declining
mail volumes "could threaten the foundations of the business model" the
Postal Service has followed for three decades. This gloomy vision of the
future was presented to Congress Oct. 3, where it was greeted by Rep. John
McHugh (R-N.Y.) as "pretty realistic." The plan shows that the Postal Service
is aware of the challenges it faces, said McHugh, who heads the House Postal