IPv4 exhaustion research agenda, qty 1.

March 29th, 2009 by kc

[drafted this entry a few months ago but have been reluctant to post because it’s incomplete. but after reading about the ARIN Board’s emergency proposal last week to create IPv4 address markets, variations of which have already been approved in European (RIPE) and Asia-Pacific (APNIC) IP address policy communities, i decided it’s complete enough. -k.]

A few policy questions on which the RIR-community should funnel address-registration tax dollars into peer-reviewed research:

  1. How is IP address allocation usefully compared to other communication media, e.g, spectrum allocation? What can we learn from models used in different countries? Establish metrics for evaluation of efficiency and consumer surplus generated for different models of allocation. What enforcement mechanisms are used in different regimes? Propose and evaluate cost and performance of such mechanisms.
  2. Unlike spectrum, IPv4 addresses are a non-substitutable input for everyone participating in the Internet routing system. How is IP address management usefully compared to that of telephone numbers? Or Currency? The economic history of multiple currencies is sufficiently consistent as to merit its own economic law (“bad money drives out good.”) — how might it apply to address markets? Does the recent introspection about monetary policy provide any relevant insight?
  3. In considering the privatization of IP addresses, what can we learn from examining other industries privatized in different (especially G8) countries: electricity, natural gas, trucking, airlines, telecom? What about comparisons to other fundamental market reforms in the last 200 years, e.g., Russia, China, India, Latin America. What would historians of these transformations have to say about the IPv4 runout dilemma?
  4. What can we learn about IP integer markets from examining the political economy of other aspects of the Internet ecosystem we have privatized, e.g., infrastructure, naming (DNS) registration services? What about the trajectory of those industries do we want to emulate or avoid?
  5. For completeness, list the arguments and stakeholders for and against reclamation of IPv4 space per RFC2050.
  6. Update the PIARA study given what we have learned in the last decade.
  7. Bill Herrin added an even better object of comparison to IP address management: freshwater management. I suspect studying water management in general would be enlightening. If it starts to sound like we’re studying a public utility, we’re on to something.

Ideally this background research and associated interdiscplinary conversations happen before — or at the latest during — the more urgently needed roadmapping and scenario planning exercises, which the RIRs should undertake or openly outsource, then summarize results to all address holders and seekers.

disclosure: ARIN has sponsored CAIDA research efforts in gauging IPv6 penetration and obstacles, some results presented at ARIN meetings (October 2005, April 2008, and October 2008), others on the research pages of CAIDA’s website. ARIN has also told me it is planning to launch a more formal research program, which could be used to inform current and future policy debates. There’s a lot of work to do, but the RIR’s are in a fine position to do it.

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