BY TONDA RUSH
NATIONAL NEWSPAPER ASSOCIATION
The Postal Service is good to go on its plan to slow down the mail and implement aggressive price increases, according to the Postal Regulatory Commission in a pair of decisions handed down this week.
The PRC expressed skepticism about the wisdom of adding an additional day to service standards for both First-Class and Periodicals mail.
But it stopped short of telling USPS not to make the change. Instead, it cautioned USPS to examine its assumptions about cost savings and to look into the root causes of mail slowdowns in recent months.
On a planned increase in postage cost for Periodicals that will average nearly 9%, added to a 1.5% increase earlier this year, the Commission gave USPS a green light and denied pleas by industry groups to hold off on the increase until the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has ruled on the legality of the large price hikes.
However, the Commission did criticize the Postal Service’s treatment of the costs for flat trays as a substitute for mail sacks, urging better cost analysis, as NNA has repeatedly requested.
The Commission has ruled in the past that USPS needs more money, citing trends that have driven mail handling, delivery and transportation costs to accelerate faster than inflation.
“There is little to cheer about in this set of decisions,” National Newspaper Association Chair Brett Wesner, president of Wesner Publications, Cordell, Oklahoma, said. “Slower, more costly mail is assuredly going to accelerate the downward spiral of the Postal Service. The whole nation will suffer, particularly the rural areas served by many community newspapers. NNA has warned for a decade that without action by Congress, this decline could become almost impossible to stop. We reiterate that call now to our Members of Congress.
“NNA supported the addition of one day to delivery times for long-distance newspaper mail, on the condition that USPS keep its commitment to reach its target 95% of the time. We are already working with USPS on a task force to improve this delivery so our newspapers can stem the flow of lost subscribers. We hope the Commission will be aggressive in enforcing the new standards. The rising rates, however, are not the bitter medicine coming from years of strange technological and environmental disruptions to the mail, as the Commission seems to believe. They are the hemlock that will eventually kill universal service and require Congress to bail out its agency.”