Advances in Regulatory Economics series
Edited by Michael A. Crew and Paul R. Kleindorfer
Chapter 1: Privatization of postal operators: old arguments and new realities
Privatization of the postal sector has taken on significant momentum with the passage of the Postal Services Act of 2011, which enables the privatization of Royal Mail. Just as in the 1980s when the UK privatization of other network industries and associated regulatory reforms energized these sectors and had an impact well beyond the UK, the current UK proposal promises to have a widespread impact. So, this chapter’s reexamination of the topic of privatization of an incumbent postal operator (PO) with the traditional Universal Service Obligation (USO) is particularly timely. The 20th Anniversary Conference on Postal and Delivery Economics is an appropriate place to consider privatization drawing a full circle to the original conference at Coton House in Rugby in 1990, in which the discussion was inspired by the contribution of Roland Hill’s innovation of the Penny Post. Hill’s reforms coalesced with the other currents of the Industrial Revolution to provide the basis for a model of a postal system for industrial economies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Now is the time for major reform in the postal sector to reflect the ‘Communications Revolution’, which is taking place at far greater speed than the Industrial Revolution. If the postal sector is to thrive in the Communications Revolution, further significant transformation of the sector, driven by commercialized and privatized POs, will be required to integrate various elements of traditional postal communications with the new communications infrastructure of the Internet and wireless technologies.
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