significant costs to switching to a new standard—even if it represents a more advanced or useful technology.63
Bandwagon and lock-in effects can reward some technologies with large market shares and hinder the success of others, irrespective of their technical merits. Lock-in of inferior technologies through standards can, in some instances, retard innovation and technological advance. These phenomena can occur faster than the typical development cycle of consensus standardization. The rise of standards consortia in the information technology and telecommunications industries is one response to this challenge. The limited due process, consensus, and open participation requirements of these organizations enable them to develop standards rapidly in many instances. Their procedures and restricted membership, however, may limit the acceptability of these standards outside the consortia that develop them.64 Consensus standards developers are responding to this challenge with such measures as streamlined due process and a tighter focus on customer needs in setting the scope for standards writing. In the past five years, for example, the international consensus standards developer for information technology, ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1), has reduced the time needed to produce an international standard from more than 50 months to less than 36 months.65
The best means to achieve standardization, in the committee's judgment, is a flexible, sector-specific approach. Issues such as appropriate speed, technological sophistication, openness of participation, and degree of consensus for standards should be determined by participants in each industry sector. Standards development cycles that are too slow for the telecommunications industry, for example, might be too fast for building materials or consumer appliances. No single set of SDO procedures or performance criteria is likely to meet the needs of manufacturers and users across technologically and economically diverse industry sectors.
Common to all industry sectors, however, is the need for greater accessibility of information about standards and standardization processes. As noted previously, coordination costs are a significant hurdle for achieving standardization. Numerous SDOs with formal procedures for convening technical experts have come into existence in order to overcome this hurdle. Modern communications technologies, however, present additional opportunities to reduce the barriers to participation in standards development, particularly for small firms with limited resources. The National Standards Systems Network (NSSN), a pilot program administered by ANSI under a $2 million cooperative agreement with NIST, is intended to foster links among existing sources of standards information. Electronic dissemination is a key element of NSSN.66 Additional efforts of this type hold significant potential for facilitating participation, particularly for small enterprises and consumer interests. Other benefits will include lowering costs and increasing the speed and efficiency of the U.S. standards development system.
A third area in which ANSI's role has evolved through periods of both