cr> RAND: Feasibility of Universal Email Within the U.S. (fwd)


Richard Moore

Date: Sun, 21 Jan 1996
From: Phil Agre <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: universal e-mail service

[Tora Bikson is one of the authors of a valuable study last year of the
feasibility of universal e-mail service.  Here are details on the study.
I have taken the liberty of reformatting them slightly for RRE.]

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Date: Tue, 02 Jan 96
From: Tora Bikson <•••@••.•••>

                          *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

A complete copy of our report is available on the Web.  Go to RAND's
home page (, and access either Hot Topics or Publications.
Within Publications, it's available under Featured Articles (or some
similar label).  You then get the table of contents, which lets you
access whatever sections interest you.

              fax: (310) 393-4818

                          *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

                             PROJECT ABSTRACT

                The Feasibility and Societal Implications
                     of Providing Universal Access to
                 Electronic Mail (Email) Within the U.S.

   In July, 1993, The Markle Foundation funded a two-year project at RAND
on the topic of "universal" email access within the U.S.  The objective of
this study is to develop a set of strategies and approaches for providing
universal U.S. access to email facilities and to outline the initial
dimensions of their varied costs, benefits, features, impacts, advantages
and disadvantages.  We hope the outcomes from this study will advance
the national dialog on this topic and contribute to its substantive
interdisciplinary base.  With the increasing attention being given to the
concept of a National Information Infrastructure, the important issue of
providing the broadest possible U.S. access to electronic communications
will be central to the policy directions ultimately taken.

   The study approach has five interrelated phases. (1) A survey of
existing literature plus participation in existing widespread email
systems (e.g., Compuserve, America Online, The Well, civic networks
such as Santa Monica's PEN, and Internet): Systematic examination of the
literature plus network experiences will help determine characteristics
of the services and facilities provided, how the systems and related
rules and norms are evolving (and may play a role in -- together and with
possible new players--providing universal email access), and yield lessons
learned in the provision of widespread email access. (2) Examination
of notional alternative designs for universal email access: This study
phase will explore the extent to which heterogeneous technologies from
different service providers can create a "universal" system of sufficient
connectivity, transparency and ease of use for the individual user,
and what the characteristics of a "minimal terminal" and associated
facilities and services would be. (3) Development of several alternative
implementation plans for study that address such economic issues as the
role of public funding, possible cross-subsidies and rate structures,
the role of standards, and public policies for assuring widespread and
nondiscriminatory access with privacy guarantees as appropriate. (4) An
assessment of the likely social consequences resulting from the provision
of universal email access, including the growth of "virtual communities"
of users, possible effects on forms of electronic democracy, the creation
of new business opportunities, and the legal responsibilities of email
service providers and users. (5) A workshop, in year 2 of the project,
on preliminary results to date: The workshop will allow us to obtain
feedback on the findings, develop revisions and extensions as appropriate,
and incorporate these results into a final project report.  We will also
make the study findings broadly accessible via the Internet and other
electronic bulletin boards and services as well as in presentations.

   The project's principal investigators are Robert Anderson and
Tora Bikson.  In addition, a number of other RAND staff members
and consultants are taking part so the project can obtain access to
relevant expertise as needed.  For further information, contact one
of the principal investigators by Internet using the email address
form •••@••.•••, or at:

        RAND Corporation                telephone: (310) 393-0411
        1700 Main Street                fax:       (310) 393-4818
        P.O. Box 2138
        Santa Monica CA  90407-2138


 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 Materials may be reposted in their entirety for non-commercial use.