USPS seeks employee Web access

The U.S. Postal Service, which has called home computers and the Internet

a threat to traditional mail, is proposing to supply its 800,000 employees

with bargain-priced computers and free Internet service.

In a notice to computer vendors, the Postal Service says it is looking

for a company or companies to sell its employees home computer systems for

payments of about $12 a month for 36 months and free Internet service.

The 225-year-old Postal Service is anxious to connect as many of its

em-ployees as possible 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.

Postal employees would also be free to use the computers to surf the

Internet, and the Postal Service promises that it "would not, under any

circumstances," monitor its employees' Internet activities.

The effort to "wire" its workforce puts the Postal Service in company

with a number of U.S. corporate giants, including Ford Motor Co., Delta

Air Lines and Intel Corp. All three announced this year that they would

supply their employees with computers — in Ford's case, all 350,000 employees — and Internet service at deeply discounted prices or, in Intel's case,

for free.

At Intel, the free computer program is both an employee-pleasing perk

and a productivity booster, said Intel spokes-man Tom Potts. Intel employees

use the company intranet extensively. "It's very efficient for everything

from getting a better understanding of company benefits" to communicating

with co-workers and bosses, he said.

When the program was announced in March, "it actually created genuine

excitement within the organization; it was a big buzz for a while," he said.

"It was pretty much a slam-dunk for Intel." The Postal Service hopes to

have a test computer sales program ready for launch in 01/and a full-scale

program under way in March, Brennan said.

Under the program, each Postal Service employee would be able to buy

a computer system with at least a 566 MHz Intel Celeron processor, an 8G

hard drive, 64 MB of RAM, a CD-ROM drive, a 56K modem, a color monitor and

a color ink jet printer.

Computers would be delivered within 30 days after orders are placed.

They would be shipped to buyers through the Postal Service, of course.

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

compared with those available commercially, said Brennan.

Unlike Intel, the Postal Service says it will not help pay for the computers

or Internet service. Computer vendors will have to earn a profit from the

monthly payments and through volume sales. Internet providers are expected

to rely on advertising revenue to make money.

The Postal Service is asking computer vendors to submit bids by Nov.

6 for the right to sell computer systems to USPS employees. Sales to postal

workers could bring in as much as $9.6 million a month.

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