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Postmanet: Turning the Postal System into a Generic Digital Communication Mechanism

Report ID:
March 1, 2004
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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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