review the standard for technical merit but, rather, certifies that it was developed through open, consensus-oriented procedures and does not unduly duplicate or conflict with existing standards. The standard's usefulness to interested parties in the relevant market sector—manufacturers, purchasers, regulators, testing laboratories, certifiers, and others—largely determines whether it gains widespread acceptance. A technologically obsolete, commercially nonviable, or otherwise unsatisfactory standard will be neglected. Such a standard will eventually be discontinued by the SDO. Broad dissemination and use of the standard, however, are presumably in the interest of those who participated in writing and approving it. These individuals and the firms or associations they represent are therefore likely to use and promote the standard.
There is ample opportunity for U.S. industry to participate in voluntary consensus standards development and ensure that it meets U.S. economic needs. Both manufacturers and their customers take part in standards setting through industry associations such as the Computer and Business Equipment Manufacturers Association (CBEMA); the Gas Appliances Manufacturers Association; and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, consisting of telecommunications service and equipment companies. Firms also pay salary and travel expenses for employees who serve as individuals in the work of professional societies and standards-developing membership organizations such as SAE, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Small firms may not have sufficient resources to devote personnel to technical committees. They can, however, monitor and submit technical inputs to the process through industry and trade associations. Firms are often active in developing standards within all three types of organizations and through de facto marketplace competition at the same time.
Standards-developing organizations vary widely in size, number of standards produced, breadth of industries and technologies covered, profile of membership, and geographic scope, among other factors. Nearly all, nevertheless, share two important features.33 First, they operate on the basis of consensus. Simple majority vote among participants in a standards-writing project is almost never sufficient to establish a standard. The consensus principle makes good sense in the context of the standards developer's mission. To produce standards that will achieve economies of scale, consumer safety, advancement of technology, compatibility, and other benefits of standardization, the standards must be accepted and used by as many firms and individuals as possible. Unless the standard is subsequently mandated as part of a government regulation or procurement specification, its acceptance by potential users is voluntary. Standards adopted as mandatory by government, moreover, are usually more effective if they reflect consensus among affected parties. A consensus among interested parties during the design of a standard clearly increases its prospects for broad acceptability.