Formal standards-setting for global telecommunications and information services. Towards an institutional regime transformation?
This paper reviews the nature and economic significance of the activities carried on by standards development organizations (SDOs), focusing in particular upon the telecommunications and information technology standards-setting work of the government-created public and quasi-public institutions, and the international treaty organizations that constitute the formal standards sector. It documents the current sources of tension within this regime and appraises various proposals for organizational reforms. There are especially pressing needs for adaptations of the inherited institutional mechanisms for technical coordination to provide for inter-operability in the development of new telecommunication networks and services. Among the manifold sources of strain on the old structure, those which seem at once most fundamental and potentially most threatening are the recently heightened industrial perceptions of the potential strategic value of standards as tools of business competition and national policy, and the incentives for 'institutional by-pass' that have been created by the rapid proliferation of technological possibilities. The paper considers some alternative organizational models for negotiated standard-setting that might be able to withstand, and better harness these forces for the continued production of standards as public goods.
Volume (Year): 20 (1996)
Issue (Month): 10 (December)
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