Comments on H.R. 2813

B-202936: Published: Jun 26, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 1981.

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Legislation has been proposed to permit the U.S. Postal Service to provide electronic mail services by using the transmission services of privately owned telecommunications carriers. The bill's purpose needs clarification to reflect more accurately that the Postal Service will only be using the transmission services of privately owned telecommunications carriers. Since the Postal Service views electronic mail as a subclass of mail that is transported electronically, Section 2 of the bill could be located in the U.S. Code by establishing a new chapter in the section entitled "Transportation of Mail." If this is adopted, that section would have to be renumbered. The bill should be more reflective of its intent to prevent cross-subsidization, and the Postal Service should establish an accounting and costing system which assures proper cost assignments and prevents cross-subsidization. Under certain circumstances, the funding sections may fail to provide for initial start-up costs for electronic mail services. Although the investment of Postal Service funds in electronic mail services is authorized under law, these monies are only available for investment if they are in excess of current needs. Therefore, electronic mail service start-up costs may lack funding if the Postal Service fails to determine that monies in the fund are in excess of current needs. The bill's contracting authority section needs clarification to reflect the competitive aspect that the Postal Service agrees is necessary to permit it to enter into a sole-source contract for transmission services. It would be prudent for Congress to resolve potential jurisdictional issues between the Postal Service and the Federal Communications Commission incident to electronic mail service in the legislation rather than risk the possibility of protracted litigation that could possibly delay the implementation of electronic mail services.

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