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<nettime> Postel Goes Postal or is it Just .US?
MediaFilter on Sat, 20 Jun 1998 09:09:19 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Postel Goes Postal or is it Just .US?

Will Postel go Postal when he starts working for the USPS?

Apparently there is some behind closed doors dealmaking going on
between the NTIA, IANA and the US Postal Service.  Here is a copy
of a proposal from the US Postal Service to take over the management
of the .US country code toplevel domain:


USPS Coordination of the .us Domain

May 8, 1998

Building on its legislative mandate to offer universal delivery while
promoting commercial infrastructure development, the United States Postal
Service (USPS) proposes to coordinate the development of the .us domain as
a national addressing infrastructure. This coordinated framework for
addressing will efficiently link physical and virtual space and accelerate
and universalize the growth of electronic commerce.

The Postal Service is working with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
(IANA) on the mapping of .us locality addresses to the postal address
database. These street-level addresses under .us will provide a
privacy-protected space which will allow US residents to define their own
terms for electronic communications. In the interest of initiating
widespread personal and commercial use of .us, the Postal Service is
willing to commit additional resources to: _ engage the private sector in
the development of credentialed, commerce-enabling space under .us _
promote classified business addressing under .us at local, state, and
national levels as an open reference for public and private delivery
systems and competing directory services _ manage an open policy process to
develop policies for expanding the .us domain _ work toward the
establishment of a governance structure that will represent the diversity
of stakeholder interests - private, nonprofit, and public - in a fully
developed .us domain space

To these ends, the Postal Service specifically proposes to support the
following functions:

Current registry operations: Initially, provide funding for the IANA to
continue its current operation of the .us TLD under contract to the USPS.
With IANA, develop a transition plan that ensures a seamless and
transparent continuation of existing DNS services within the .us TLD.

Geopolitical addressing system: Refine conventions for Internet addressing
of public agencies at the federal, state and local levels. Reassess the
present system of private registrars.

Second-level domain name structures: Seek input from Internet users
regarding the creation of additional second-level domain name structures
within the .us space, such as industry-sector/trademark-oriented structures
or affinity group names. Explore options for delegating second-level
domains to appropriate private-sector organizations.

Policy development: Observe federal formalities to ensure that all
stakeholders have an opportunity to participate. Establish advisory
committees and work towards participatory governance.

A National Addressing Infrastructure

Unique among national Top-Level Domains, the geopolitical structure of .us
has been populated largely by public agencies rather than private users.
Ironically, the absence of unstructured commercial space under .us has
preserved an opportunity to develop and exploit an ordered and secure space
quite distinct from the flat, unstructured space of .com and other TLDs.

Instead of simply serving as a mnemonic link to a company or product,
domain names can serve a range of functions. A mail or server address in
.us can provide assurance that a user is in fact physically within the
United States. An address can represent that the site sells cars. It can be
used to certify that its owner is a doctor, lawyer, or accountant in good
standing. It can signify membership in the Better Business Bureau or
warrant adherence to a code of privacy practice. It can bind the identity
of a person with a certain level of confidence or subject to specified

While the Postal Service is uniquely positioned to perform some of these
functions, it is also uniquely able to initiate an addressing
infrastructure open to development and use by a wide variety of
private-sector companies, associations, and nonprofit organizations. As it
is, the .us space lacks recognition as a commercial domain. The Postal
Service can serve as an administrator for .us, bringing legitimacy,
leverage, and scale to elicit investment by others and achieve critical

The Postal Service can brand .us as the universal domain for the United
States by linking physical addresses and electronic addresses through
residential and business .us addresses. Services designed to link
electronic input to physical mail delivery are already being tested by the
Postal Service. The Postal Service can combine legal protections and
technology to ensure that users will be able to control the flow of
commercial communications through a protected address. Having a secure
address space will ease customers' concerns about privacy and security thus
promoting more rapid acceptance of electronic commerce.

The Postal Service processes 40 million requests for change of address from
individuals, households, and businesses each year. This forwarding service
has been expanded through a web site, MoversNet
(http://www.usps.gov/moversnet/). Once security features have been added,
the MoversNet site will enable customers to receive a .us address
equivalent to their new physical address and choose among a variety of
options for personal identification and attribution, controlled forwarding
of information (from the .us address to existing email accounts) from
government agencies and businesses at the new location, and new services
offered by private sector firms such as electronic bill presentation and

The Postal Service could also assist in the development of classified
domains into which businesses would voluntarily register and help make sure
that similar classification practices apply at local, state, national, and
international levels. Such classified domains could help mitigate the
trademark problems that have been experienced in generic top- level
domains. The Postal Service does not intend to enter the directory business
but would be willing to engage the private sector in developing the
classification system as well as policies for usage, delegation, and
self-governance. Private directory publishers would have access to the
classification system and associated databases and would build value-added
directories on top of them.

USPS Capabilities

The US Postal Service is uniquely suited to coordinate the development of
.us by virtue of its scale, universal reach and international
relationships, its experience in policy formulation and implementation
under public scrutiny, and its historic role in stimulating infrastructure
investment. Its mandate to provide secure, private and universal access to
personal and business correspondences and transactions enables it to
administer a secure universal electronic address system within the .us
space tied to the universal physical address system it maintains for all
households, businesses, non-profit organizations and government entities in
the U.S.

Historical Role

The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 defines the mission of the USPS "to
bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and
business correspondence of the people." The Act further requires that the
Postal Service offer services to every patron and every community within
the United States. Throughout its history, the Postal Service has played a
pivotal role in supporting the development of the infrastructure required
to ensure universal delivery - from the development of post roads in the
18th Century to support for the aviation industry in this Century. Today,
the Postal Service is the only organization that regularly serves every
individual and business in the country by delivering 190 billion
correspondences each year to every household and business in America.

Trusted Public Agent

As an independent establishment of the federal government, the USPS is
owned by the people of the United States. It operates on a break-even
basis, not for profit. It is subject to sunshine laws that require that its
policies and strategies be shared with its stakeholders, the American
public. The Federal Register Notice process provides an official vehicle
for seeking comment from stakeholders regarding proposed USPS activities.
Policies refined through this process have the force of law, publicly and
legally binding the Postal Service to perform the activities defined in the


As its mandate requires, the Postal Service has, throughout its history,
vigilantly protected both the privacy of correspondences sent through the
mail and the security of the mailboxes and post office boxes where these
correspondences are delivered. As a federal entity, the Postal Service is
also subject to the Privacy Act which requires that all customer records
held by the institution be kept secure and private.

Role of the Inspection Service

The Postal Inspection Service investigates crimes under a variety of
criminal statutes. This dedicated group of law enforcement personnel
provides an important practical advantage in the investigation of crimes
designed to undermine the integrity of postal systems. The Postal
Inspection Service has an active and experienced computer forensic group to
investigate and prosecute computer crimes. This technical expertise has
been used extensively in investigations in which computers were used,
including investigations involving activities on the Internet.

Address Management Expertise

The Postal Service's address management group manages the largest and most
accurate physical address database in the world, maintaining 137 million
addresses and processing address changes for 40 million households and
businesses each year. The Postal Service works with the mailing industry to
offer a number of electronic address information services to its customers.
These systems, such as the Coding Accuracy Support System and the POSTNET
Barcode Quality Certification process, allow the Postal Service to work
with certified private sector providers to extend the reach of its address
services. This certification process will be a valuable mechanism for
ensuring broad involvement of private sector firms in the management of the
.us domain space. Coordinating the physical address system and the .us
domain space will enable the Postal Service to cross-link physical and
electronic addresses in a manner that ensures the privacy of the parties

Information Systems Expertise

The Postal Service currently manages a large information systems network.
The USPS manages a class A license for IP addresses (56.X.X.X). Within the
internal USPS network are 15 autonomous systems, with 16 areas each, which
provide service to up to 34,000 local area networks. When fully deployed,
the USPS internal network will provide TCP/IP connectivity to over 150,000
individual networked devices. Within the usps.gov second level domain, the
USPS has one primary and sixteen secondary domain name servers which
currently handle over 125,000 individual host names. Because of the high
bandwidth demands of the digital image traffic used in mail sorting, USPS
networks have a total capacity equivalent to over 700 T1 lines. Firewalls
between the USPS intranet and the public Internet handle 1.5 million
transactions per day at a peak rate of 140,000 transactions per hour,
exchanging 14 GB of data in the form of web pages and files. In addition,
the USPS, as a non-profit government enterprise, is able to obtain the best
technical expertise available from private industry through consulting and
contracting arrangements. The USPS organizational structure and supplier
sourcing agreements currently in place can provide services within the
existing .us TLD, and will scale readily to handle any growth in future

The United States Postal Service, the world's largest address manager and a
public agency sensitive to policy concerns, is prepared to commit
substantial resources to accelerate the development of .us as an enabling
framework for electronic commerce.
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