Special Report: Towns go dark with post office closings

By:  Cezary Podkul and Emily Stephenson

Postal officials were blunt in December when they stood before 120 residents in Dedham, Iowa, to tell them why their town's post office has to close. The Internet, officials said, was killing the U.S. Postal Service.

"Well, I have no Internet," resident Judy Ankenbauer said at the meeting. Like many of Dedham's 280 residents, Ankenbauer said she still relies on the post office to buy stamps and send letters and packages.

Dedham is hardly alone in its dependence on the Postal Service. Some of America's poorest communities - many of them with spotty broadband Internet coverage - stand to suffer most if the struggling agency moves ahead with plans to shutter thousands of post offices later this year, a Reuters analysis found. Nearly 80 percent of the 3,830 post offices under consideration are in sparsely populated rural areas where poverty rates are higher than the national average, demographic data analyzed by Reuters shows.

Moreover, about one-third of the offices slated for closure fall in areas with limited or no wired broadband Internet, Reuters found.

"We're not the ones in the big cities who are just emailing everything to everybody. We're the ones that are actually still sending our Christmas cards and our birthday cards," said Sarah Clyden, who runs a feed store in Oakwood, Okla., where the agency is considering closing the post office.

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