Cyberspace Technological Standardization: An Institutional Theory Retrospective
82 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2009
Date Written: February 11, 2009
The Clinton administration originally had made 'industry self-regulation' its guiding principle for standardizing cyberspace. So far, this principle has not been changed by the succeeding administration. This paper is a historical and conceptual assessment of that policy, examined through the prism of comparative institutional theory.
Historical analysis of the last two decades shows that industry 'self-regulation' was not always a coherent policy but partly a rhetorical device used to legitimize the government's own agendas, i.e. cyberspace's architecture and its infrastructure mandated design. Thus far, there are still far too many inconsistencies in its formal standardization policies. The intentions, actions and declarations aimed at further privatizing the net's funding and governance - on the one hand, as can be seen in the quasi-privatization of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) case study; On the other hand, the practice of offstage centralization of early infrastructure standardization policies.
Consideration of cyberspace's unique multi-layered architecture, will then attempt to answer the comparative institutional question of 'who should standardize the net?' This question would be subject to the distinctive production process of cyber standards. Thus, distinguishing between early infrastructure standardization on the one hand and complementing application standardization on the other. This is in reference to the FCC's incomplete legal category definitions.
This study will conclude with a set of comprehensive policy rules backed by a caveat; as with analogous IT standardization regimes, unless distinctive standardization categories and policies will be maintained en bloc and thus sequentially and context-based - cyberspace's present relatively successful institutional regulative reality may not always be preserved effectively also prospectively.
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