By Erik Heilman
Director, Government Affairs
If you’re reading this, you’re either online right now or you’ve printed
it out. You chose which method – electronic or paper – you
preferred. That’s the principle behind AF&PA’s view that people
should be able to choose whether to pay bills, communicate with
friends and colleagues, read a book, etc. electronically or on paper.
Unfortunately, many government agencies don’t see it that way.
Recently, federal agencies have been eliminating services and communications such as social security documents, tax documents, and savings bonds in a paper format forcing them to electronic-only formats. What’s more, citizens relying on these services aren’t given a choice in the matter. To spotlight this problem, Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) teamed with Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME) to introduce a non-binding resolution in the US House of Representatives that says the federal government should take all appropriate measures to ensure that citizens continue to be provided with paper-based information, products and services, and public notices while providing the ability for all citizens to opt-in to electronic delivery if they so choose.
The fact is, millions of Americans cannot access information in electronic formats or simply prefer paper documentation. Perhaps you know someone who doesn’t have reliable internet access or doesn’t want to be told they have to receive things in an email only. According to a recent survey done by Consumers for Paper Options, 72% of respondents said the government should continue to provide important documents and records in paper form. The move to digitize all forms of communication disadvantages nearly 30% of American households without Internet access, 45% of seniors who do not own a computer, and 8% of the population who choose to not maintain a bank account.
Paper and digital formats can be complementary; those who wish to receive paper-based communications and documentation should have that choice and not be forced to digital delivery or forgo the information or service altogether.