USPS casts for employee Net access

It may deliver "snail mail," but the U.S. Postal Service wants its 800,000

employees to have easy access to e-mail — and the Internet and a Postal

Service intranet, too.

The Postal Service is inviting computer vendors to bid for the right to sell USPS employees computers, Internet service and access to a Postal Service intranet. The winning bidder will be able to charge as much as $12 a month per customer — potentially taking in $9.6 million

a month.

For about $12 a month over 36 months, Postal Service employees would

be able to buy a computer system that offers at least a 566 MHz Intel Corp.

processor, an 8G hard drive, 64M of random access memory, a CD ROM drive,

a 56K modem, a color monitor and a color ink-jet printer.

At about $12 a month, the computers would be "at greatly reduced cost"

compared to those available commercially, a Postal Service spokeswoman said.

The two-century-old Postal Service is anxious to get as many of its

employees as possible connected to the Internet to improve employee communication,

said spokeswoman Sue Brennan.

Once connected, employees could use the Postal Service intranet for

job-related chores, such as changing health insurance policies and applying

for job transfers, and for receiving job-related information. Thus, the

computer and Internet service would help the Postal Service comply with

federal paperwork reduction requirements, Brennan said.

The service provider would be required to develop and maintain a Postal

Service portal. A "key requirement" of the portal is that it must provide

Postal Service employees with a secure link to a Postal Service intranet.

But to do business with the Postal Service, companies have to be able to

meet a number of requirements:

* They must be able to provide service from Hawaii to Puerto Rico, Alaska

to Alabama.

* They must offer 24-hour help-desk support for users.

* They must be capable of supplying 50,000 computer systems a month

to buyers and delivering them within 30 days after orders are placed. The

computers would have to be shipped to buyers through the Postal Service,

of course.

For all this, the Postal Service says it will provide no funding. Providers

will have to cover their costs and earn a profit from the fees they charge

Postal Service employees and from revenue generated by advertising that

may be sold on the portal.

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