Starting early next week, U.S. Postal Service customers in Alaska communities without road access will be able to mail packages at a lower rate than the rest of the country can.
A new pricing category, Limited Overland Routes (LOR), represents a rollback of a January rate hike that officials said resulted in disproportionately higher prices for customers in rural Alaska. On Sunday, customers in affected ZIP codes can start using LOR pricing, which drops the cost of mailing heavier packages back to pre-Jan. 26 rates, the Postal Service announced in a Thursday news release.
Under the change, Standard Post items can be shipped for the lower price from any ZIP code within Alaska to an LOR community, and from an LOR community to any ZIP code within Alaska. The prices will be available for look-up online starting Sunday in the Postal Explorer, http://pe.usps.com, in the Price List (Notice 123) for manual lookup, and in the Postage Price Calculator http://postcalc.usps.com.
A total of 187 ZIP codes in Alaska are affected, including villages as well as larger hub cities such as Juneau, Bethel and Nome.
The changes came about two months after a political backlash in Alaska over the rate hike, culminating in a meeting between Sen. Mark Begich and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in early February. After the meeting, Donahoe promised to roll back the rates, a measure that got the go-ahead about two weeks ago when the Postal Service's regulatory body formally approved the request.
The rollback has been described as an unprecedented move for the federal mail carrier. John Friess, communications manager for USPS western region, referred to it Thursday as "uncharted territory." He added that those in affected areas are likely already aware of the change.
USPS employees have also been briefed on what to expect and how to answer possible questions, said Ernie Swanson, spokesman for the USPS in Alaska.
Reach Devin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4314.
By DEVIN KELLY