Universal Postal Service



Richard B. Kielbowicz, "Preserving Universal Postal Service as a Communication Safety Net: A Policy History and Proposal," Seton Hall Legislative Journal, 30 (no. 2, 2006): 383-436.



The Postal Service has started on a "death spiral," in the words of the Government Accountability Office, as its revenue-generating letter mail migrates to electronic channels.  This financial deterioration jeopardizes the future of universal postal service, a prospect that rural communities find especially disquieting.  Lawmakers working on postal reform recognize that universal postal service remains an ill-defined policy, and they have called for studies of its origins and development.  This article examines current proposals affecting universal postal service through the lens of policy history.  It identifies and analyzes four policy dimensions: a national infrastructure to distribute information, a rate design that encourages the long-distance circulation of information, targeted efforts to bridge the urban-rural postal divide, and flexible boundaries between private and public delivery systems.  The analysis suggests that universal postal service developed as a communication safety net to fill gaps left by other information networks, especially in rural areas.  In light of this history, the article proposes that lawmakers treat universal postal service and universal telecommunication service as complementary parts of a comprehensive communication policy.

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