GAO Report Finds Rural Postal Service Remains Essential

Yves here. When economists and pundits talk about “infrastructure,” they almost always mean physical amenities, like roads and bridges. But in many respects, one of the most important services long provided by governments, is the postal service. England’s Royal Mail started in 1516, which sadly has been privatized.

By contrast, if you read a history of the early postal service in the US, the operation had a considerable ad-hoc quality to it. For instance, in 1683 William Penn conferred the right to conduct a weekly postal delivery between Philadelphia and Wilmington to a private individual. That year, legislation in Philadelphia also required that official correspondence be forwarded, presumably to this new service. Yet fast forward to 1728, when Alan Bradford, a printer and binder in Philadelphia, also became the Postmaster, his competitor who published The Pennsylvania Gazette, Ben Franklin, found he couldn’t get his newspaper delivered by Bradford’s post. Both businessmen and private individuals benefit greatly from a low-cost postal service

The article below explains why the Internet isn’t an adequate substitute for mail in rural areas. When I go to Maine, the one-person post offices in small towns or on islands are very important to the locals, and even on my short visits, I’ve seen how they’ve been   petitioning their representatives to keep them open. And there are other issues worth factoring in. A 2015 Pew survey found that 16% of Americans did not use the Internet. Moreover, it didn’t inquire, as Census surveys do, the readiness of access (is it at work? at home? both? via a smartphone? at a community facility like a library?)

By run75441. Originally published at Angry Bear

From time to time, Mark Jamison or myself would feature articles from the Save the Post Office blog as authored by Steve Hutkins, a literature professor who teaches “place studies” at the Gallatin School of New York University. Mark Jamison a retired Postmaster for a small town in North Carolina would often write there also. This particular post was featured in October of 2016. Where FedeEx, UPS, DHL or other services do not go, the US Postman still does play an important role in rural communities.

West Plains Daily Quill: A top watchdog study completed at the request of U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, found that the Postal Service remains essential to rural communities, regardless of whether those communities have access to rural broadband services.

Senator Clair McCaskill had this to say:

“This study shows what we already know to be true—that the Postal Service remains essential to Missouri’s rural communities, regardless of their access to other technologies,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor and senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service.

“There’s simply no substitute for the vital service our post offices provide— even as we continue to make important advances in rural broadband—and we’ve got to preserve and improve that service for the folks who rely on it most.”

Senator Heidi Heitkamp added to McCaskill’s comments:

“For North Dakotans in rural communities—whether they have access to high-speed internet or not —reliable mail service is a key ingredient to a successful business and staying connected,” said Heitkamp. “But too often, that high-quality service is not delivered—and that’s exactly what Senator McCaskill and I are working to improve. Today, we received the results of a Government Accountability Office study we requested which affirmed what folks in rural states have long known—that communities and businesses in rural areas depend on mail service regardless of their internet connection. By providing more clarity, we can make sure dependable mail service is prioritized in the rural communities where it is needed the most.”

The Government Accountability Office report examined the relationship between broadband access and use of the Postal Service in rural and urban communities. The report found that rural households without broadband access continue to rely on the Postal Service for more transaction and correspondence mail—and value this service for a variety of reasons, including fewer retail alternatives and a high level of trust in USPS services. The study also found that when rural households get broadband access, they do not reduce their use of the Postal Service. Read more. The GAO report Information on How Broadband Affects Postal Use and the Communications Options for Rural Residents is attached.

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