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Defining Expectations

Industry Welcomes Administration's New Standards Strategy, Doesn't Expect Major Change

The U.S. government’s national standards strategy for critical and emerging technology (CET), unveiled earlier this month, is helpful but won’t fundamentally change how standards are developed, speakers said Tuesday on a USTelecom webinar. The experts said the strategy is explicit that industry should play a lead role. The strategy is complementary to the national cybersecurity strategy, also released this year (see 2303020051), they said.

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The changing international dynamics around standardization for CET require the United States to reaffirm and strengthen its private sector-led approach to standards development rather than abandon it, as many autocratic nations would like to see,” the strategy says.

We can read between the lines about who those primary autocratic nations are,” said Stephanie Travers, Lumen lead adviser-national security and emergency preparedness. “This strategy suggests an even higher level of cooperation and collaboration between government and industry,” she said.

The strategy “helps to highlight the importance of international consensus standards development to national security,” Travers said. The strategy doesn’t change “the formula that private industry will continue to lead the development of national and international consensus standards like it has for the past 100 years,” she said.

Industry has always relied on support from the government and that continues, Travers said. The strategy “articulates” the administration’s goals, “which is very helpful in a public-private partnership,” she said: “I, for one, do like knowing what to expect from my partners.”

Standards development has to be led by industry, said Nick Fetchko, Verizon head-international government affairs and trade policy: “That is extremely important for developing innovation and economies of scale.”

A single international standard still isn’t a “reality,” said Alexandra Blasgen, CTA senior manager-technology and standards. “There are many different regulatory, cultural, political situations that have to be worked around, therefore we do have a need for national and regional standards,” she said. National standards can be affected in part by international technologies and regulations, but are country-specific, she said.

Blasgen cited a company that worked hard to lead a project in an international standards body, got an international standard, “then quickly” realized they weren't able to deploy their product in the U.S. because of Americans with Disabilities Act problems. “They ended up coming to CTA for some help with producing an American national standard,” she said. Standards developed through an open-consensus process are especially important for national security and cybersecurity products, Blasgen said. “We definitely encourage companies of all sizes to get involved,” she said.

Verizon would like more standards meetings to take place in the U.S., Fetchko said. For that to happen, the U.S. has to be more “welcoming” and put in place visa policies and processing times that allow delegates to attend, he said. Fetchko said one major standards meeting last year was supposed to take place here. Visa delays and other complications meant it had to be moved to Europe, he said.

The number of standards meetings held outside the U.S. is “the biggest barrier” to more companies participating, Travers said. “With shrinking budgets,” it’s easier to get authorization to travel to U.S. meetings, she said. Many companies also still don’t recognize the importance of standard setting, she said: “U.S. leadership in emerging technologies is really dependent upon increasing knowledge of standard-setting bodies and initiatives.”

Questions remain about the participation of U.S. companies in European standards-setting bodies like the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, said Elaine Newton, Oracle senior director-global standards policy and compliance.