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US Considers EU Decision on RFID a "Big Victory"

The U.S. Commerce Department undersecretary for technology Robert Cresanti was interviewed by Government Computer News about his reaction to the recent decision by the EU against regulating RFID technology in the near term. This article offers a recap.
Apr 10, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

April 10, 2007—The U.S. Commerce Department undersecretary for technology Robert Cresanti was interviewed by Government Computer News about his reaction to the recent decision by the EU against regulating RFID technology in the near term (see EU Opts for Hands-Off Approach to RFID Regulation).

Cresanti traveled to CeBIT 2007 in Hanover, Germany, to hear in person what the EU's stance would be. Judging by the interview, he did not know the stance prior to the announcement at CeBIT by his EU counterpart, Information Society commissioner Viviane Reding. "We were afraid the EU would mandate RFID legislation and would perhaps fail to understand where the technology was going," commented Cresanti, whose position throughout the interview is decidedly anti-regulation. To his relief, Reding announced that in fact the EU would not legislate RFID -- at least not now (see EU's Decision Not to Legislate RFID is Conditional).

Cresanti characterized the EU decision as a "big victory," making a nod to free-market economics that advocates less governmental intervention in matters of commerce. "It is best if technology is driven by market forces rather than regulation." Most vendors would agree with Cresanti, at least in this instance, since regulation of RFID would likely result in a more constrained European market for the technology.

Despite this position, Cresanti does believe that RFID technology should be managed by world governments to the degree that it facilitates greasing the wheels of international trade. "[RFID] is a major international commerce issue," he emphasized. "If we don't get it right, it could put all kinds of kinks in the system that would seriously hamper trade."

Cresanti cited the diversity of spectrum allocations from nation to nation as a particular challenge. He explained that while this issue can be worked around by equipping RFID tags with multiple antennas that allow it to work across various geographies, he said that such technology results in a higher per-tag cost.

Both Cresanti and the EU's Reding will be heading to Asia later in the year to address issues related to the internationalization of RFID. Cresanti's aim is "a set of international ground rules," which he said he will work closely with Reding to achieve.

Even while Cresanti advocates a hands-off RFID policy within Europe, the U.S. itself might not end up entirely free from RFID legislation, at least not at the state level. Witness California, where after having a first bill vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger late last year (see California RFID Restrictions Get Governor's Veto), State Senator Joe Simitian has recently fielded his second attempt to formally restrict state use of the technology.
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