The U.S. Postal Service’s universal service obligation (USO), which establishes what mail services the Postal Service must provide, lacks a clear, comprehensive definition. The current USO is assumed to be 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 an important component of USO, there are no specifics about how many access points such as mail collection boxes or post offices must exist.
Add in the disruptive and transformative effects of digital communications, which have cut into mail volumes, and it’s clear that the Postal Service USO needs addressing: What exact services do policy makers and the American public – senders as well as receivers – now need the Postal Service to provide?
Our white paper, Guiding Principles for a New Universal Service Obligation,says that now is the appropriate time to update and clarify the USO. We used lessons learned from existing literature, input from experts, and its own knowledge of the Postal Service to develop six guiding principles, which are intended to help filter the plethora of information and stakeholder input to frame substantive discussion and debate on a new USO.