WASHINGTON – A top watchdog study completed at the request of U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, found that the Postal Service remains essential to rural communities, regardless of whether those communities have access to rural broadband services.
“This study shows what we already know to be true—that the Postal Service remains essential to Missouri’s rural communities, regardless of their access to other technologies,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor and senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service. “There’s simply no substitute for the vital service our post offices provide— even as we continue to make important advances in rural broadband—and we’ve got to preserve and improve that service for the folks who rely on it most.”
“For North Dakotans in rural communities—whether they have access to high-speed internet or not—reliable mail service is a key ingredient to a successful business and staying connected,” said Heitkamp. “But too often, that high-quality service is not delivered—and that’s exactly what Senator McCaskill and I are working to improve. Today, we received the results of a Government Accountability Office study we requested which affirmed what folks in rural states have long known—that communities and businesses in rural areas depend on mail service regardless of their internet connection. By providing more clarity, we can make sure dependable mail service is prioritized in the rural communities where it is needed the most.”
The Government Accountability Office report examined the relationship between broadband access and use of the Postal Service in rural and urban communities. The report found that rural households without broadband access continue to rely on the Postal Service for more transaction and correspondence mail—and value this service for a variety of reasons, including fewer retail alternatives and a high level of trust in USPS services. The study also found that when rural households get broadband access, they do not reduce their use of the Postal Service.
cCaskill and Heitkamp are leading sponsors of the Rural Postal Act, a bill that aims to improve postal service, delivery times, and standards in rural communities that have been disproportionately affected by cuts to the Postal Service. The bill—also backed by Senator Jon Tester of Montana—would restore overnight delivery, return a faster First-Class mail standard, make six-day delivery permanent, and enact strict criteria the Postal Service would have to meet before closing a post office to ensure that rural communities are still able to easily access the mail system.