The International Telecommunications Union Telecommunications Standardization Sector (ITU-T) has decided to offer over 3,000 of its standards for free in PDF version only. The ITU came to its senses when it realized that they can better serve their mission when they offer the standards to people for free instead of charging moderate fees. Beginning in January of this year, they allowed web site visitors to download standards free of charge. Over 300,000 standards were downloaded during the first three quarters of this year compared to 500 purchased last year. I guess that they realized that selling standards is not a money making proposition. It is better to make them freely available to anyone who wants them so they can be widely implemented; otherwise, they are not of much value to the industry.
Let's hope that other standards organizations catch on to this move and begin providing their standards free on-line. With the exception of IEEE, Telcordia and CableLabs, most standards organizations worldwide are supported by governments, and the standards are created and edited by industry volunteers. The cost of providing free on-line copies is negligible. If the purpose of a standard is to promote multi-vendor interoperability and safety, shouldn't they be widely available? The ITU has made a great step in promoting the use of their standards globally and spurring innovation.