Going good postal

Here's another idea: Capitalize on the Postal Service's commitment to communication and have it spearhead efforts for universal access to high-speed Internet service. The Federal Communications Commission already has declared this a national priority, so let's put the Postal Service in the driver's seat.

America's broadband infrastructure now relies primarily on the whims of private telecom companies such as AT&T and Verizon. They decide the reach of their networks and how much people have to pay to go online.

As a result, the United States ranks 12th worldwide in broadband adoption and ninth in broadband speed, according to a recent report from the tech company Akamai. Who's No. 1 in both categories? South Korea.

It's no secret how the Koreans do it. On the one hand, the nation's dense population makes it more economically feasible for companies to roll out broadband services. But the government also keeps a firm regulatory hand on the tiller.

Korean telecom companies may be required to extend their networks to certain communities. Competition is also promoted by requiring bigger telecom providers to make their networks available to smaller rivals.

So how about the Postal Service engineering a nationwide broadband network? Think of it as the public option for high-speed Internet access.

The Postal Service could build and run broadband lines reaching communities now bypassed by the big telecom firms. Phone and cable companies would be required to extend their high-speed service to these outlying areas using the agency's network — and paying the Postal Service for use of its system.

The agency also could run lines into cities and lease them to smaller rivals looking to compete with the bigger players. In an emergency, its lines also would form a backbone that would keep government offices, police departments, hospitals and schools online.

Meanwhile, let's overhaul our antiquated post offices.

Follow the Starbucks example. Convert them into coffee shops that allow people to go online whenever they please. Sure, you could still mail a package or buy stamps. But you could also get a decent cup of government-brewed java and kick back with your tablet or laptop.

In the 21st century, "going postal" shouldn't be pejorative. It should be cool.

It's not such a farfetched idea.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays (and occasionally in between). He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.