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USPS mulling email option for residents

The U.S. Postal Service is considering offering all U.S. residents a service that would route their physical mail to an email account.

As part of its ongoing attempt to revamp itself for the digital world, the U.S. Postal Service today said it is considering offering all U.S. residents a service that would route their physical mail to an email account.

The USPS, which maintains a database of some 120 million residential addresses, said no specific timeline was given for when the new service--still in early stages of research and development--would be available.

"What's in the works is seeing if we can (offer) the possibility of linking physical and electronic addresses," said Sue Brennan, a USPS spokeswoman. "This (new service) is about giving a customer a choice on how they want to do business with us."

For example, she said, a customer can request that some items, such as catalogs or utility bills, be sent via email instead of by the traditional mail service. In a secure environment, similar to that of First Class mail, utility bills and other items could be sent to an email address rather than a home mailbox, she added.

The USPS also said it is mulling ways to provide a forwarding email service for customers who switch their email accounts to a new Internet service provider (ISP).

In recent years, the USPS has taken steps to keep up with emerging technologies as the Internet gives traditional mail service added competition. Among its efforts to stay with the rapidly changing and competitive landscape, the USPS has licensed Internet postage services to companies such as E-Stamp and Stamps.com, as well as entered other new areas such as electronic bill payment.

Earlier this year, the postal service linked with CheckFree to allow customers to pay bills electronically. CheckFree is providing electronic billing and payment services to the post office's Web site, allowing customers who sign up to pay their bills online to a small number of large companies, including long-distance carriers, regional utility companies and wireless companies.