July 9, 2012 (RARC-WP-12-012)

Throughout its history, the U.S. Postal Service has contributed to the nation’s infrastructure. Highly subsidized postage rates for newspapers created a national market for information. The Post Office organized stagecoach service to transport mail and newspapers, supporting a passenger transportation network for the new nation. The Post Office Department was the first government entity to promote commercial air transportation, and mail contracts provided the initial support for what eventually became a great aviation industry.

By the 1960s, though, the Post Office suffered from operational problems and deficits. The Kappel Commission on Postal Operations argued the Postal Service postal resources should not be used to pursue ends unrelated to its core mail delivery function. This view stemmed partly from a perception that political involvement was an impediment to efficient mail service, but it represented a sharp break from past history.

Today, the Postal Service’s core business is under technological and competitive attack and the digital revolution has opened infrastructure gaps. The question arises once again whether the Postal Service, with its grounding in physical communications, can help the nation meet new needs. To read more about the Postal Service’s contributions to the national infrastructure, download the full report below.

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