By: Kelvin Childs
Postmaster says alliance could be in the cards for USPS
and projects technology will make its monopoly irrelevant
Postmaster General Marvin T. Runyon deflects criticisms about the U.S. Postal Service spending on advertising, supports campaigns for direct mail and holds open the possibility that the agency could partner with an Internet provider. He also says the USPS is working to improve timely delivery of periodical-class mail, although he gives no specifics.
Runyon spoke recently in Washington at the National Press Club about the Postal Service of the future. He states that today’s Postal Service needs to maintain its monopoly on first-class mail in order to support its national delivery network.
Monopoly Vs. Technology
But, he says, “By the year 2020, there will be so many ways to communicate, advertise and ship merchandise, the monopoly will simply be irrelevant.” That year will be the 50th anniversary of the Postal Service as an independent agency.
Runyon notes that bills, payments and statements contribute one-third of the Postal Service’s revenues and half of its volume. But the Postal Service will have to adapt as the growth of electronic commerce and telecommunications shrinks those proportions. “Research tells us that within the next 10 years, the infrastructure, security and public acceptance issues that now limit electronic diversion will be solved,” he said.
Of postal reform legislation proposed by Sen. John McHugh, R-N.Y., Runyon states, “It doesn’t re-invent government as much as it re-regulates it.” Still, he says the agency hopes some reform may pass. Several times Runyon complained that the Postal Rate Commission takes up to 10 months to approve any new prices, and indicated that the Board of Governors “should have a little more authority in what they do.” The Rate Commission is expected to rule in May on the pending rate case.
Calling direct mail “an important part of our nation’s economy,” Runyon deflects criticism that Postal Service advertising touting direct mail takes business away from newspapers.
Asked if the Postal Service would buy a computer service such as Yahoo! or an Internet provider or newspaper company, he said he doesn’t see the need, and he doubts the Treasury Department would approve such a move. On the other hand, “It’s quite possible that with any company, we could partner with them in some way that would be beneficial to both companies, and we’re quite willing to do that,” he said.
With regard to speeding delivery of periodicals and other second-class mail, Runyon said the agency is improving timeliness in other categories, such as overnight mail, and second-day and third-day delivery of first-class mail. “And we’re also working on the mail that you’re talking about, and we’re making progress on that. So we’re continuing to improve,” he said. “As we get something very good, we work to hold it there and then to improve the rest of it.”
Runyon, who is retiring in the next few weeks, says a successor has not been named.
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