Inet '96: Address sales scheme in the works
IETF sets up task force to create a market for Internet addresses
Montreal -- The standards-making organization of the Internet took one step closer to a world where Internet addresses are bought and sold for money.
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) agreed to set up a working group that will experiment in creating a market in which Internet host addresses can be transferred for money, members of the IETF said at the 6th annual meeting of the Internet Society in late June.
Prior to the experiment, the working group will ask the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) to remove a current restriction on address transfers, they said. IANA oversees address and name space on the Internet.
Excluding some service fees, addresses are currently distributed free of charge by regional network information centers (NICs) but concerns that the addresses, which are a limited resource, may eventually run out prompted IETF to push for the experiment, IETF members said.
"There are about 4 billion, 32-bit addresses and about one-third to one-half have been allocated ... people are worried about [addresses] running out," said Paul Resnick, member of technical staff, public policy research at AT&T Research. By charging, "the addresses become valuable and [Internet service providers] will only acquire what they need."
"The NICs have no way of objectively verifying the need for addresses," said David Conrad, the director general of APNIC, the regional address registry for the Asia/Pacific region. "If an organization comes to us for addresses we are forced to require extensive information to justify the request."
Though no specific plans regarding the experiment have been decided -- that will be the job of the working group -- the experiment will likely begin sometime later this year, said Resnick, who proposed it. The experiment could be carried out in two ways: Either a block of unallocated addresses, about 16 million, could be sold off by a lottery, or a block of currently assigned addresses could be given a monetary value, Resnick said.
If the experiment is successful the number of tradable addresses would be expanded, but free address space would still be available from the NICs, Resnick said.
Though the only concrete plan agreed upon was to establish the working group, proponents of transferable addresses view the agreement as a big step forward. Charging for address space has been an ongoing and much debated topic at IETF meetings, but until now the idea has been shot down.
"We're not ready to try it out for the whole Internet -- the idea is
to try it out on some portion with the hope that we can observe some
benefits," Resnick said.
--Rob Guth, IDG News Service
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