The Clinton administration wants all Americans to have an e-mail address to go along with their street address and is asking the US Postal Service to deliver the project's backbone.
The idea is to connect physical and electronic addresses using the nation's Internet "country code" -- the top-level ".us" domain. Then a company or government agency, for example, could send bills or bulletins to citizens' electronic electronic mailboxes as well as their physical ones.
The administration said the move would "accelerate and universalise the growth of electronic commerce," according to the Postal Service.
Every country has a top-level domain. In many countries, such as Japan, companies and other organisations incorporate their nation's top-level domain into their Web site addresses.
In the US, however, the .us domain is mainly used by educational institutions. "There is a very large domain area that isn't being utilised, and the Postal Service is proposing, at the request of the administration, to create the infrastructure that would allow this area to be used," said Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan.
After that is in place, the Postal Service would be in charge of address management, she added.
The administration is looking ahead to the day when most Americans have access to the Internet or at least e-mail from their homes. "Everybody would have an e-mail address, and for those who cannot access it right now, it would be downloaded and sent to them through the mail" so that they could use it at a library or other facility with Internet access, Brennan said.
The Postal Service sent a proposal to launch the .us domain initiative to the Commerce Department on June 1. The department says it will accept comments from the public, based on 11 questions, until Sept. 3. (See http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/usrfc/dotusrfc.htm)
Responses will be posted on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Web site.