Turning the Postal System into a
Generic Digital Communication Mechanism


Randolph Y. Wang, Sumeet Sobti, Nitin Garg, Elisha Ziskind, Junwen Lai, and Arvind Krishnamurthy. Turning the Postal System into a Generic Digital Communication Mechanism. Proc. of ACM SIGCOMM 2004. August 2004.


The phenomenon that rural residents and people with low incomes lag behind in Internet access is known as the ``digital divide.'' This problem is particularly acute in developing countries, where most of the world's population lives. Bridging this digital divide, especially by attempting to increase the accessibility of broadband connectivity,can be challenging. The improvement of wide-area connectivity is constrained by factors such as how quickly we can dig ditches to bury fibers in the ground; and the cost of furnishing "last-mile" wiring can be prohibitively high.

In this paper, we explore the use of digital storage media transported by the postal system as a general digital communication mechanism. While some companies have used the postal system to deliver software and movies, none of them has turned the postal system into a truly generic digital communication medium supporting a wide variety of applications. We call such a generic system a Postmanet. Compared to traditional wide-area connectivity options, the Postmanet has several important advantages, including wide global reach, great bandwidth potential and low cost.

Manually preparing mobile storage devices for shipment may appear deceptively simple, but with many applications, communicating parties and messages, manual management becomes infeasible, and systems support at several levels becomes necessary. We explore the simultaneous exploitation of the Internet and the Postmanet, so we can combine their latency and bandwidth advantages to enable sophisticated bandwidth-intensive applications.


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© 2004 Randy Wang    (rywang@cs.princeton.edu)