The failure of European ITC standards policy And a possible future?
Greg FitzPatrick, SkiCal Consortium
The fact that the world's de jure standards organizations have had no significant role in the development of the Internet has played poorly with European ICT standards strategy. This strategy for the harmonization of EU member-states' standards activities, expects standards to be created within the de jure sphere, where Europe, by the strength of their national votes are able to exert considerable leverage. Unfortunately for the EU, the real work of standardizing the Internet has taken place in de facto and informal standards consortia outside the formal sector. For a member-state of the European Union, including the country of Sweden whose government has sponsored this paper, the situation is highly unsatisfactory. European agencies, national and municipal governments, firms and research institutions are coaxed by European Standards Organizations into participating in "European" standards initiatives. Funding is provided for "European" projects with "European" partners, and these European solutions are considered the equivalent of global solutions - which often they are not. At this moment the standardization of Internet related ICT is in a state of flux. The economic downturn has strained the resources and curtailed the power of the two acknowledged leaders in Internet standardization; the IETF and the W3C. IPR issues are crippling consensus. De facto standards constellations are being put together by discriminatory alliances. The Internet needs voluntary and impartial standardization procedures that lead to global and open standards - which happens to be the very same goals professed by the international de jure community. But the de jure community has failed to politically and procedurally reinvent themselves to accommodate the Internet - the schism has not been bridged. Its a surprising world we live in. Just when we think equilibrium resides, dynamic events occur causing change. There are strong possibilities that the next few years will see rapprochement between the informal and de jure communities egged on by the former's economical straits, the latter's desire to participate in the real ICT world, and not least, growing consumer dissatisfaction with de facto standardization run rampant. These changes offer Europe new opportunities for participation in global standards activities