Panel slams USPS initiatives

The President's Commission on the U.S. Postal Service disapproves of the mail service's recent electronic commerce ventures.

In a report released Thursday, the commission said the USPS electronic commerce initiatives have been a failure. It said USPS should focus on its traditional job of delivering mail the old-fashioned way. But, the commission added, it should modernize its system and make the best use of technology to deliver mail.

But forget about e-mail, the report said. Most Americans don't know that USPS has electronic bill payment services or offers certified e-mail and online greeting cards, and it is considering offering e-mail and other data transmission services.

"These ventures have produced largely disappointing results," the commission said. "These efforts also have drained time and resources that could have been spent improving traditional postal services."

The commission recommended that USPS focus on traditional mail and leave electronic products and services to the private sector.

"The online revolution dramatically blurred the lines of what constitutes a 'postal service,' producing some dubious forays," the commission said.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association applauded the recommendations. "The USPS entrance into these markets is unfair to private companies and detrimental to competition and innovation," said Ed Black, president and chief executive officer of CIAA.

"The USPS has a multitude of advantages that the private sector cannot compete with: taxpayer subsidies, the government-sponsored Postal Monopoly, and its own law enforcement mechanism," he added.

The report now goes to President Bush and will be the subject of congressional hearings this fall that will evaluate USPS.

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