2.2. Standards development

Governments have tended to take a back seat in the development and promulgation of technical standards in general, and ICT standards in particular.[1] Thus the Internet’s technical standards are not, in general, mandated by law. In this they contrast with the technical standards for international telephony, which are set out in the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), a binding treaty instrument which is developed and periodically updated by the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT).

Internet standards are complied with not because Internet users are compelled by hierarchically-imposed authority to do so, but because they are of high quality, are timely, widely supported, and represent a high level of technical consensus amongst a broad group of experts and users. Thus, the de facto standards of the Internet are a form of governance by norms, whereas the de jure standards of international telephony are a form of governance by rules.

The term “Internet standard” is used in two senses. The narrower sense is a specification produced by the IETF that has progressed through its standards development process to the final stage. Whilst the importance of the IETF to Internet standards development can hardly be overstated, the term will be used here more broadly to encompass specifications developed by any standards body that are intended for deployment on the Internet.



Updegrove, Andrew, The Role of Government in ICT Standardization (2007)