Most people probably don’t know what a universal service obligation is, much less that the Postal Service is bound by one. But a USO, as it’s commonly called, is essential to ensuring that everyone receives the mail service they need. And the Postal Service’s USO is long overdue for updating and clarification, as you can see in our new white paper, Guiding Principles for a New Universal Service Obligation.

In general, a USO is a collection of requirements that ensure everyone in the country receives a minimum level of mail service at a reasonable price. The Postal Service’s USO includes a requirement to provide mail services to everyone, regardless of where they live, and for at least one mail product, at a uniform price. Other features of the USO are understood to include frequency of delivery, a range of product offerings, access to mail services, and quality of service. For instance, delivering your mail 6 days a week is part of the USO.

But frequency of delivery is the only obligation that is clearly articulated in the Postal Service’s current USO. In fact, the USO is based on a hodgepodge of various legal requirements and regulations that, in most cases, provide only broad guidance. For example, while public access to postal services is another important component of the USO, there’s nothing about how many access points, such as collection boxes or post offices, must exist.

The big question: What exact services do policy makers and the American public (both senders and receivers of the mail) now need the Postal Service to provide? Our paper provides six guidelines the Postal Service and its many stakeholders can use to frame the discussion about the USO and try to answer that basic question. For instance, we say a new USO should be clearly defined while also being flexible enough to adapt to future changes.

Do you agree the USO should be updated to reflect the changing nature of communications? How have your mail needs changed in the last decade? Do we still need 6-day-a-week delivery? How do you think the American public would benefit from a more clearly defined USO that included, for example, a minimum requirement for the number of access points? 

Comments (326)

  • anon

    My daughter put a letter in the drop off packages inside the post office will it be sent out to the right place

    Nov 18, 2015
  • anon

    My mail is always mixed up or put on top of mailbox the postal service is on Hull street Virginia 23112. Across from Benito shopping center. I will notify higher up if you can't fix this problem. We love in apartment complex and should be able to get our CORRECT mail. It is a privacy law and government issue. It can cause fraud especially my bank accts I will hold the post office accountable for any mishaps because of their wrongly hiring post men to understand how to put the mail on the right place.

    Nov 17, 2015
  • anon

    I have a problem with my mail, I don't received a lot of my letters because the mailman delivers at another house whit the same number but not the same street. I lost a lot of important letters but when I going to the another house I don't see my letters. I don't know how can I fix this big problem.

    Nov 17, 2015
  • anon

    I recently moved into brand new apartment complex and have not received any mail in 2 weeks. I paid and registered for USPS to forward my mail. Every time I try to sign up for something or change my personal information to show my new address, it says that my address cannot be found. I have seen the USPS mail truck here before. How can I get USPS to recognize my new address so I don't have to deal with these issues. This is severely impacting many things I need to do and get done. HELP!

    Nov 16, 2015
  • anon

    i live in encanto ca. my mail is only delivered when the regular guy is working i was told they can just keep my mail at local office and do not have to deliver. they are doing construction on my rd but the mail box is accessible by car i do not have the option of going to local office which is why i get my mailed delivered

    Nov 16, 2015
  • anon

    Wi have not received bills, packages delivered one month after the sender's delivery date, mail delivery between 7 & 8 pm, & just plain no delivery at all. Yesterday, my flag was up but the mailman totally bypassed our mailbox. The service in Tinton Falls, 07712 zip code is inconsistent & pretty absurd. I suspect this last incident could be because someone parked close to the mailbox. I can't police where people park. All the other incidents were just plain disregard for us.

    Nov 15, 2015
  • anon

    Is there a certain time frame for mail to be delivered in residential areas? My mail has been getting delivered in the evening lately. Today it did not arrive until almost 6PM.

    Nov 14, 2015
  • anon

    I ordered 4 batteries for a grease gun,the tracking number said it was delivered.The package was put on the front porch of a unoccupied home according to the postal worker.No note was in my mail box to inform me,thus i'm out the cost of the product.Now I had to reorder which is double the cost,how ever I'm not dumb enough to trust the postal service this time.

    Nov 14, 2015
  • anon

    Nearly everyday the mailman delivers letters intended for different neighbors. When I put it out the next day with a note that it was delivered to wrong address, the letter goes back in with my daily mail. I have begun redelivering them myself and now am concerned about getting in trouble. How do I stop this from happening?

    Nov 14, 2015
  • anon

    Let's see if this comment section really works. There is a post office opinion Des Moines Iowa on McKinley Ave that sucks, plain and simple!! My complex has gone without mail for over a week, is included. Many including myself have gone down to the post office to express our frustration for no mail delivery, mail in the wrong boxes, packages that were never delivered and how they NEVER answer their phone durning normal business hours. This post office is rude, unprofessional and needs to be investigated immediately. The whole management (if there is really management) needs to be fired the spot as well as our mail man. It's now over a week we us receiving no mail and no resolution. We have bills that need to get paid as other important mail that we haven't received, and what is the post office doing about it, not a darn thing!!!!!

    Nov 13, 2015
  • anon

    So for 2 days in a row the mail man hasn't taken my out going mail instead they just put the in coming mail on top of it and even put my flag down. I'm pretty aggravated with the situation.

    Nov 13, 2015
  • anon

    The Mableton, GA PO needs a complete housecleaning. Mail is NEVER delivered correctly on my street and all boxes are CLEARLY MARKED.

    Nov 13, 2015
  • anon

    Why do postal carriers leave people mail out side of mail box when thet're no names? if the names not on mail box then it should be return to senders. This practice is just adding to identy teft..

    Nov 13, 2015
  • anon

    I live on a property with several building that are spread out. My mail is delivered to the building where I work and that is the address for my mail---but I want it to be delivered to the house in which I live because I order things for my private use. How do i get my house address registered with the postal service and on GPS sites.?

    Nov 12, 2015
  • anon

    NyLvNI didn't receive my package and it said it did so what can I do about it cuz I did not receive the package they never left it in front of my house or in the mail box I saw him when he past by he stop didn't put nothing in the mail box did a quick u turn and went some where else

    Nov 12, 2015
  • anon

    I was expecting a package and received a delivery confirmation via mobile text. I went to my mail box, and no package. However, a stack of mail for someone else, not at my address. I couldn't even find the physical address on google maps or map quest. I put that mail back in my mail box with a note to the postal worker to redeliver to the correct address. But how do I find my package once it left the postal workers hands? I have a tracking number, Tracking # 9261299992210820346222. The package included gifts. Do I contact the retail store who sent it? How do I get my merchandise that has been paid for already? I have no idea where the postal worker made the delivery. I was home the entire day, and had received other packages from USPS the day before, just fine. Please help! Regards, Petrine Christensen 712 E 900 S, Pleasant Grove, UT 84062, mobile phone 385-201-5834.

    Nov 11, 2015
  • anon

    My tracking order says "delivered at mailbox", and Its been 11 dats sofar that I havent recieved my Item. I went to the post office, and there was nothing. I tried to file a complaint, but wasn't allowed to because I have no insurance towards my mail. So basically threw my hard earned money down the drain and cant do nothing to recieve it back

    Nov 10, 2015
  • anon

    Can u contact the place you made the order with and tell them you never got it? They might be able to resend it! ?? From the sounds of it the mailman dropped it off at someone elses house and they got a free gift! Or someone may have seen the package in your mailbix and took it!

    Nov 14, 2015
  • anon

    I mailed a letter on Wednesday November4th to Oregon from my home delivery person. It has not arrived. How do I find out if it was delivered?

    Nov 10, 2015
  • anon

    I asked my local mail carrier office to hold my familys mail for 30 days now hes telling me we cant becouse it has to be the whole house. Our father in-law also lives at the same house we did not ask to have his mail stoped just my husbends mine and my childens mail becouse my father in law has with held our mail from us when the mail person hands it to him or he get it out of the mail box first. The mail carrier was not so nice telling me why he would not do this he said we cant just pick and chose. Aberdeen md post office is who delivers our mail..

    Nov 09, 2015
  • anon

    My daughter put her notice in to stop delivering mail. The post office in Norwood, Ohio is claiming that they don't have her last check, and do not know what she can do about it.

    Nov 08, 2015
  • anon

    So I'm pretty sure the post office in metamora il has not been delivering to me or my neighbors from yesterday and I'm assuming today aswell

    Nov 07, 2015
  • anon

    I have been receiving mail addressed to my house but for random, stranger people that don't reside in my house. I am concerned that my address has been used for something illegal such as address proof for school enrollments. I have collected a few of the mail that is delivered and thinking I should give it to the mail delivery person. Is there somewhere or someone I can talk too to make sure other people are not using my address? Please respond as soon as you can. Thank you, Lupe B.

    Nov 07, 2015
  • anon

    I don't think the USPS knows anything about "service." I have had a number of packages not delivered and returned as "undeliverable" using the exact same address that they deliver to on any other given day. When you try and call a specific post office direct, the phone rings a few times and then disconnects. When you call the 800 number you get wait times from 45 minutes to over an hour. The mail at our office doesn't get delivered at all at least once a month. If my company provided this level of service, we would be out of business in less than six months.

    Nov 06, 2015
  • anon

    I think mail delivery can be reduced to Monday - Friday. Most people do not get mail any more and access their personal information via internet. It's time to update the post office to reflect these changes.

    Nov 05, 2015
  • anon

    Post office on Paula Drive in Tampa 33615 will not answer the phone

    Nov 05, 2015
  • anon

    I have not been recieving my mail.there is 7 boxes in a row.everyone else is recieving there mail.complained to post office.they state not able to get to my box.this is a lie.I have pictures they are able to.its the law they have no right not delievering my mail.

    Nov 05, 2015
  • anon

    A postal employee walked away from their rental lease owning the owner well over $4,500. Can I report her through code of ethics.? She works and is employed in Kure Beach,NC. Can I report her to the post master? I am shocked and very disturbed by this actions. What recourse? Any recommendation will be helpful. She is held to a higher standard! .

    Nov 04, 2015
  • anon

    I JUST FOUND OUT ON 11/2/2015 THAT MY MAIL WAS PUT ON HOLD AT THE MAIN POST OFFICE HERE IN FRANKFORT, KY , AFTER TALKING TO MY MAIL CARRIER, HE INFORMED ME THAT MY MAIL WAS PUT ON HOLD, I ASK WHY? HE DID NOT KNOW SAID HE WOULD BRING IT ALL THE NEXT DAY , HE DID AND AFTER OPENING A LETTER FROM MY COUSIN, INFORMING MY UNCLE HAD PASSED, I WAS VERY UPSET , BECAUSE THE POST OFFICE HELD MY MAIL, AND I MISSED THE SERVICE AND FUNERAL, WHY DID THIS HAPPEN ? HOW ? CAN ANYONE GO AND PLACE A HOLD ON SOMEONE ELSE,ES MAIL WITHOUT YOUR CONCENT ? PLEASE LET ME KNOW, IM GOING TO SEEK LEGAL ADVISE ON THIS .

    Nov 04, 2015
  • anon

    Good for you GET A ATTORNEY AND SUE THEM maybe that will help them start to focus on the people they serve. I know that is my next plan.

    Nov 14, 2015
  • anon

    My mail has this writing on it David- you can move your Mailbox anywhere on Iowa ST side of your property Thanks Daphne My house address is on 3RD Street this is on the side of my house were no one can see it and is vulnerable to theft and vandalism thanks USPS

    Nov 02, 2015
  • anon

    I have bought a house in downtown Hilliard Florida I put my mailbox in front of my house just to the side of my driveway on the road my address is adjacent to I was told that I have to move my mailbox to a Side Road because my road does not meet the requirements for them to come down it is not a dead-end road one Half blocks to the east they deliver all the way down and one block to the west they deliver all the way down the same road I was told I could use a side right beside my house instead of my direct address right that they had their routes established and that they would not adjust their routes to add my address into the routes I will post a picture of a letter that they put in my mailbox today when !they dropped off the mail they were holding as of 12/1/2015

    Nov 02, 2015
  • anon

    I'm living in Florida and my husband in new York sent a mail to me via the mailman driver. It's been over two weeks and I still haven't received it, it's very important. Y have I not receiveved it yet?

    Oct 30, 2015
  • anon

    I have been to the Melear Post Office and spoke to the manager many times about the sub-drivers hitting the decorative rocks at the curb of our neightborhood. This is the fourth time I have been there to speak with the manager. But this time no only did they hit some of the rocks but the whole curb and breaking the solar lights, causing me to lose dirt onto the street. When I spoke with the manager all I get is an apologize, but not offering to replace the damage rock or solar lights, and the sub-drivers continue to driver reckless when delivering the mail here. They should have to go through driver training just like a public school driver to learn how to judge the distance from the curb to the bumper of the postal truck. My regular driver Stephanie has never once hit the curb, and we are very pleased with her.

    Oct 29, 2015
  • anon

    Having trouble keeping the mail carrier to stop dropping boxes in my front yard and to place them on my porch. Complained several times to the McLoud PO and nothing is being done...our mail carrier had to nerve to respond to my note that "they only get paid to drop the boxes and not to place them on porches"...this is insane...I had no problems at all in Atlanta for deliveries but in small town Oklahoma, they as lazy as all get out!

    Oct 28, 2015
  • anon

    Wow! You too? This has been happening to me since February.

    Nov 03, 2015
  • anon

    Our mailman is not giving us our important mail such as DMV Dr.Lic and Registration tags. Also he had left our mail on a car that was parked in front of our mailbox, and sent back mail to sender saying it was undeliverable. ( that was a check from my husband's work). This is stressing us out so much i really don't know what i can do. COME ON like he knows how to fuck with us because someone parked in his was and he is to fricking lazy to get out and put the mail in my box! What ever happened to through rain sleet or snow... Bullshit! Lazy federal workers.

    Oct 28, 2015
  • anon

    I live in Camden nj. everyone heard of this place and we all know that its really not a safe place for anything. I just moved to a apartment complex here about a month ago. I have seen my neighbors mail on the floor but I didn't think anything of its for the possibility that they moved and there might be new tenants so I let it slide. then I ran into my mail on the floor! I called my landlord to complain but he told me I had to call the PO and file a complaint. my husband called before me and they hung up on him twice after he said he wanted to file a compliant. I called and told them I wanted to talk to a manager, he said he was the manager, I told him that the carrier keeps THROWING the mail on the floor and that I have important mail that is supposed to come in this week and I have been told by my landlord that they have keys to our mailboxes. at this point im getting frustrated because he sounds like he doesn't care. he yells to me that theres already 5 complaints from my apartment complex and they cant do nothing at this moment and then hangs up on me. I call again and he hangs up on me after I tell him who I am. I just want kno know who the hell do I talk to that can do something about this because if someone takes my mail I will be seeking legal action. if he has the keys to our mailbox, why doesn't he put the mail where its supposed to be. he has one job and cant do that right. and the manager shouldn't be working at that office if he cannot be patient with the customers and try to resolve their problems. how is there nothing they can do for that?

    Oct 28, 2015
  • anon

    I have something that is regularly delivered to my apartment. I've already contacted the place and told them to put my apartment number on it. I just received another box with the mail lady writing ON my mail saying . NO APT number NO delivery. Will RETURN to sender. That's $90 worth of product I won't get how is that even fair.

    Oct 28, 2015
  • anon

    I live Crescent OK. We have a new Postmaster. Have complained several times about our mail not being delivered correctly. It's an issue with the mail service on Saturday. Her response is I will talk to my carrier. My husband just had a check returned because it was delivered to wrong address.

    Oct 28, 2015
  • anon

    This summer we got a new postal carrier. We live out in the country so mail delivery is out by the road.This new carrier from Day One drives her SUV onto my front lawn about 30 feet in the grasd and gets back on the road. Meantime there is s gravel path that she can use to immediately get her back on the toad. I have put a barrier up but she just drives right thru it. I have complained to the postmaster and she stops doing it for a week and then starts doing it again. Had no problem with my old postal carrier. He never ran over the grass for 30 years.

    Oct 27, 2015
  • anon

    I mailed an iPhone 6s to Japan via Global Priority Mail International 3-5 day guaranteed delivery on 10/14/15. No tracking updates since 10/14/15 when it left The post office I dropped it off at. I have to wait 15 days for an investigation. No one cares. All they tell me is to keep looking online and that its probably running a little behind schedule. 13 days now with no tracking really sucks. Starting to think the package got stolen by a postal employee.

    Oct 27, 2015
  • anon

    When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the Post Office. How could I send a letter to Grandpa and he would receive it was a logistical feat my young mind could not comprehend. Now I am embarrassed for the post office. I mailed two packages to myself from IL to CO. The clerk at the 'from' location commented on how well the boxes were packed. (Meaning nothing moved around). One package arrive in tact, the other (well here we go),,, The other package had been severely damaged. It appeared the box had been dropped or tossed and taped around the sides (not by me). Plus there was a hole on the ‘broken’ side big enough for me to put my hand through. Before opening, I immediately went to the local post office asking how do I document this damaged package? The clerk was just as shocked by the damage as I and told me since I had insured the package, I could file a claim. When I got the package home, I took pictures before opening and pictures of the contents. It was obvious the articles were not in the box the way I packed them. As I removed the items, I discovered missing were the right shoe to one pair of shoes, the left shoe to another pair, a dress (which I has worn to my Dad’s funeral while in IL) and a blouse. I can only assume whoever dropped or ‘broke’ the box in their haste to ‘keep it moving’ they did not look around to assure ALL items were put back in the box. I then called the 800#. That service was no better. After following the prompts, the first call call dropped after a 4 minute wait, the second one after a 12 minute wait. I called a third time and was on hold 22 minutes before getting a customer service rep. I explained the condition of the package and what was missing. I was then told a case would be opened with the Consumer Affairs office. It took this person well over 30 minutes to document the complaint. I had an experience once before with a damaged packed. That time there was a note from the PO office offereing apologies and providing what I should do if the items were damaged or missing. No such courtesy in this case. It is a shame that the PO no longer holds a sense of responsibility or integrity. To be honest it is sad and disheartening for a person that used to be fascinated by the logistics of the PO. All said, I will file the claim as suggested by both the LPO clerk and 800# customer service rep as my confidence is low to none on my items being found and returned. Also, even though it will cost more, UPS and/or FedEx will become my preferred method for sending packages. I will be sure to check all angles as I know sometimes the package only goes so far with the services above then transfer to the PO. I want to do the best I can to assure the PO is not in the picture at all.

    Oct 27, 2015
  • anon

    Our driveway to our business is less than 1/2 mile from the main road. The mail carrier will not deliver packages to our place of business. We have to go to town to the post office to pick up our packages. Today I knew I was to receive a package. I checked the mailbox and their was notice - I go ahead an go to the post office around 12:00 and there is not package. I later go on line to tack my package. It was delivered at the post office at 8:36 and it says they made an attempt to deliver my package at 9:19 but there was no secure place to leave the package so left notice for me to go to post office. I checked my mailbox at 12:00 and there was no notice. If they delivered it to my place of business there would be a secure place. Why do they not tell the truth and why don't they deliver to our place of business. We have time sensitive packages.

    Oct 27, 2015
  • anon

    My mail person keeps leaving my packages on top of the mailboxes at the end of our private dirt road. I have lost a package because of this, and another package had been opened when I got to it. I have called the local post office to complain, but outside of that, what should I do? This is so infuriating. I feel like avoiding the usps from delivering anything to me from now on.

    Oct 26, 2015
  • anon

    Same here in Wi at our cluster box...ebay things, no less!!!

    Oct 28, 2015
  • anon

    My comment is twofold. First ~ Why isn't the Post Office held responsible when they admittedly lose a package? They told me themselves SEVERAL times on different phone calls that they lost my $103,00 Media Mail Package. But.......since I didn't have insurance their response was too bad, so sad. Not only did it fall off the planet in St Louis but try to get the people in St Louis to even answer the phone. Not once did they answer. I'm sure if you gave me an item that was over $100 and I simply lost it, shrugged it off, and didn't give it another thought you would have me in Small Claims Court. It is a travesty that I spend my hard earned money and time to get a package three states over only to have you tell me you lost it and leave me sitting without the package and/or without the $103.00 Shame on USPS!!! Secondly, my mailman refused to take two packages that I had at my mailbox on 10/23/15. I didn't realize it until 10/25/15 when I went out front (I am disabled and it's had for me to get outside). That means he left them on Friday AND Saturday! By the way, he parks his van three houses down so even if he had to get them after he was done with this area he surely doesn't have to go very far. Now I am left to void the labels (wait the 3 weeks to get the refund) and reprint. Then I have to pay someone to take them to the Post Office (across town). Just because my Mailman has an attitude. Shame on you USPS!! If you are there to provide the public with a service, the service should be provided. PERIOD. Nothing like sticking it to the customer!

    Oct 26, 2015
  • anon

    Service just gets worse and less and pretty soon it will be non existent. I don't leave my house because I have a long term illness that prevents that. So most of my stuff is delivered. I do nearly all of my shopping online. I get packages almost every day and now I've been told that the post office will no longer deliver my packages to me. Now I have to go pick them up at the post office. This is absolutely ridiculous because they will still deliver my regular mail to me, just not any packages. The packages I get are rarely larger than a shoe box. The apartment complex I live in provides a locked mailbox for each resident, and they also have larger locked boxes for packages. When I first moved here they would put packages in the larger boxes and the key to the box in your regular mail box. Then they stopped doing that and would just leave the package is at the apartment office , where the apartment office lost them at least three times a week. And now they refuse to deliver packages all together. I don't even drive. At this moment I have absolutely no clue how I will ever get those packages. And that includes prescription medications. How is this okay? How is it even legal to refuse to deliver someone's mail to them?

    Oct 26, 2015
  • anon

    On oct 6th I sent an envolope containing a130.00 dollar money order from hinesville ga to discovery bay California it's now October 25th...the bank may stop payment costing me 34.00 dollars ...I want my mail delivered ...I do not want to waste my money on USPS incompetence...I want my mail delivered or restitution....

    Oct 25, 2015
  • anon

    Jamaica USPS: Mail forwarding from the JFK Post Office in New York is pathetically the WORSE I have had in over 30 years of moving more than 20 times. My post office box mail gets BATCHED and then forwarded. I received forwarded mail that was post marked the end of July, August today with the forwarding yellow sticker dated 10-17-2015 (today is 10-23-2015). The first time this occurred I blew it off as a transition, but now having mail forward almost 90 days after it was post marked is horrible. The Post Master needs to fix this, but is either sleeping at the wheel or condones this type of behavior at that facility. Government Tax Dollars being wasted - Sincerely Terry Inglis.

    Oct 25, 2015

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