WASHINGTON—Two rural state senators—Sens. Jon Tester, D-MT, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND—have called for the Postal Regulatory Commission to set up a study of rural mail service.
The senators’ letter to the PRC follows a Roundtable on Rural Mail before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs at which NNA requested the study.
NNA President John Edgecombe Jr., publisher of The Nebraska Signal in Geneva, said he was gratified by the interest of two key members of the Senate committee overseeing the U.S. Postal Service.
“I believe these senators are seeing what we are seeing. Since the consolidation and closing of postal processing plants across the country, service to rural America has dramatically worsened. NNA’s community newspaper publishers receive a daily diet of subscriber cancellations and failed delivery of their own mail ranging from invoices to their payrolls in Priority Mail. Our communities are complaining and our editors are hearing it. It is time for Congress to demand a change,” he said.
The senators said, “Recent changes to USPS delivery standards coupled with processing plant closures and consolidations have had a devastating impact on the quality of service in rural America. We firmly believe that the continued closure and consolidation of mail processing plants across the country hinders letter carriers’ ability to ensure timely delivery and diminishes the Postal Service’s competitiveness and relevancy in a 21st century business environment.”
Their letter to the PRC asks for measurement of mail service times from rural to rural areas, rural to urban areas and urban to rural areas. USPS currently measures on-time delivery of mail nationally and reports it to the PRC. But because urban areas receive the most mail, reported averages are heavily weighted toward urban service. Isolating rural service has not yet become a priority of the commission.
Max Heath, NNA Postal Committee chair, said it was time for the PRC to spotlight the rural service problems.
“We count on the PRC to create transparency, as it recently has agreed it is mandated to do. Because it is not possible for the public, the press, the regulators or even members of Congress to lift the lid on the service measurements and see how badly rural areas have been affected by the Postal Service’s changes, no one can really zero in on the solutions. Until we see measurements, we will not see an overall focus on fixing the problems. I am really pleased Tester and Heitkamp are sticking up for our smaller communities. I hope the commission agrees that this work needs to be done,” he said.