In May 2021, two similar standards-related pieces of legislation were introduced in the U.S. Senate and discussed in committee. The unnamed bills were proposed by Sen. Chris Coons (D-CT) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and were considered as amendments to the Endless Frontier Act (EFA), which expands federal support for technology programs.
The bills would have established that it is the policy of the United States to support certain principles including: openness and transparency; balance and lack of dominance; due process, fairness, and impartiality; voluntary and consensus-based decision making in standards development; and the adoption of standards based on technical merit and market relevance.
They called for the drafting of a “National Strategy for Promoting Fairness and Due Process in Standards Development Organizations” in support of those principles, which, among other things, would have identified Standards Development Organizations (“SDOs”) that engage in actions inconsistent with the noted principles.
One would think that these principles are generally the kind of thing that SDOs would want and embrace, to build trust with the participants who develop standards within their organisations. Indeed, the White House Office of Management and Budget has a policy document called Circular A-119 that spells out the government’s role in the development and use of standards.
That document requires that Federal agencies must in almost all circumstances use “voluntary consensus standards” in their procurement and regulatory activities. “Voluntary consensus standards,” in turn, are defined to be those developed in processes that are all of (a) open and transparent, (b) balanced with a lack of dominance, (c) affording due process in a fair and impartial process, and (d) consensus-based. These are the exact principles that the Coons/Moran bills sought to promote in SDOs.
But what’s preferred by the government apparently doesn’t sit so well with ANSI, the American National Standards Institute that serves with USG blessing as the official accreditor of U.S. standards bodies and their standards.
In recent ANSI meetings of its National Policy Advisory Group and its Intellectual Property Rights Policy Advisory Group, it was reported that ANSI actively opposed the Coons and Moran legislative efforts. But why wouldn’t ANSI favour applying these universally-accepted principles in the SDOs that it accredits?
Apparently because ANSI believes freedom from interference is more desirable to its constituent SDOs than having them operate with openness and fairness.