Postal cutback could deliver rural problem

NewarkAdvocate.com | By Ledyard King | July 26, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The plan to end Saturday mail delivery is hardly welcome news, but it could be particularly painful for rural customers who live far from post offices and depend on letter carriers for government checks, prescription medicines and parts for farming equipment.

With the U.S. Postal Service facing declining revenues and a business model suffering in the electronic age, Postmaster General John E. Potter is proposing to do away with six-day-a-week delivery as part of a plan to keep the Postal Service viable for the next decade. It would be a dramatic change for a country that since the 19th century has grown used to seeing letter carriers come to their door on Saturdays.

With the proposal, post offices would remain open Saturdays so people could access mailboxes. But that might be little solace to residents, especially the elderly, who live in remote areas underserved by the Internet.

"The very principle of the Postal Service is to give universal service to everybody. If they don't do it, the people will lose that benefit in the rural areas," said Paul Katzer, a letter carrier from Montrose, S.D. "The New York Citys, the Chicagos -- if there's a need for delivery service, there's a company that will do it in those areas, but not out here. Rural America will be hurt by this."

Few dispute something must be done.

The volume of mail has plummeted from 211 billion pieces in 2006 to 176 billion in 2009, and Potter projects it will decline to 150 billion by 2020, even though package deliveries are expected to increase.

Groups that rely heavily on six-day-a-week delivery, such as prescription mail-order companies and weekly newspapers, are protesting the idea as harmful to their businesses. But the most obvious alternative is a significant across-the-board increase in postal rates and that would anger other users, such as direct-mail companies that aren't as reliant on weekend delivery but would feel the sting of higher costs.

"It would be worse for rural areas if they were not provided with universal high-speed Internet access in the near future," said Chip Sawyer, program manager for the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont. "If one is to assume that rural residents are using the mail primarily for paying bills and corresponding socially, then it would seem that those who would lose out the most with the removal of Saturday delivery are those who have the hardest time connecting to and using current Internet options."


http://www.newarkadvocate.com/article/20100726/NEWS01/7260302/Postal-cut...

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NewarkAdvocate.com | By Ledyard King | July 26, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The plan to end Saturday mail delivery is hardly welcome news, but it could be particularly painful for rural customers who live far from post offices and depend on letter carriers for government checks, prescription medicines and parts for farming equipment.

With the U.S. Postal Service facing declining revenues and a business model suffering in the electronic age, Postmaster General John E. Potter is proposing to do away with six-day-a-week delivery as part of a plan to keep the Postal Service viable for the next decade. It would be a dramatic change for a country that since the 19th century has grown used to seeing letter carriers come to their door on Saturdays.

With the proposal, post offices would remain open Saturdays so people could access mailboxes. But that might be little solace to residents, especially the elderly, who live in remote areas underserved by the Internet.

"The very principle of the Postal Service is to give universal service to everybody. If they don't do it, the people will lose that benefit in the rural areas," said Paul Katzer, a letter carrier from Montrose, S.D. "The New York Citys, the Chicagos -- if there's a need for delivery service, there's a company that will do it in those areas, but not out here. Rural America will be hurt by this."

Few dispute something must be done.

The volume of mail has plummeted from 211 billion pieces in 2006 to 176 billion in 2009, and Potter projects it will decline to 150 billion by 2020, even though package deliveries are expected to increase.

Groups that rely heavily on six-day-a-week delivery, such as prescription mail-order companies and weekly newspapers, are protesting the idea as harmful to their businesses. But the most obvious alternative is a significant across-the-board increase in postal rates and that would anger other users, such as direct-mail companies that aren't as reliant on weekend delivery but would feel the sting of higher costs.

"It would be worse for rural areas if they were not provided with universal high-speed Internet access in the near future," said Chip Sawyer, program manager for the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont. "If one is to assume that rural residents are using the mail primarily for paying bills and corresponding socially, then it would seem that those who would lose out the most with the removal of Saturday delivery are those who have the hardest time connecting to and using current Internet options."


http://www.newarkadvocate.com/article/20100726/NEWS01/7260302/Postal-cut...