Will there be an IP address black market?

IANA exec ponders future of IPv4 trading and IPv6 deployment.

The issue of whether companies, government agencies and ISPs should be allowed to buy and sell excess IPv4 addresses is a sticky one, as outlined in our story about a new proposal by Internet policymakers. Carolyn Duffy Marsan posed a few questions about the prospects for IPv4 address trading to David Conrad, general manager of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and a long-time participant in the Internet engineering community.

What do you see as some of the most significant issues raised by the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) potentially allowing organizations to transfer excess IPv4 address space to each other?

One of the most significant is how ARIN and portions of the ARIN community will revise their stance on the concept of addresses-as-property. Another significant issue is how ARIN will be able to implement constraints on the trading market. Both of these will have impact on increased address space utilization efficiency as the trading market establishes itself.

Do you think there would be a market for IPv4 addresses after the free pool is handed out?

Yes. I can't actually imagine there not being a market. The market will either be black or white. If black, it will have a negative impact on the ability of ARIN to maintain accurate databases, such as, Whois. If white, ARIN (and the other Regional Internet Registries) will undoubtedly get dragged into politics related to fairness, particularly with respect to the developing world.

Do you foresee organizations with excess IPv4 address space (universities, government agencies) making a profit by selling it?


Could this turn into a scenario where U.S. government agencies sell off excess IPv4 address space much like a wireless spectrum auction?

I would be surprised if this were to occur. I suspect US government agencies will not be able to react fast enough to initiate an auction.

Would allowing IPv4 address space transfers slow down the transition to IPv6?

I would imagine it would accelerate the transition as the cost of obtaining IPv4 address space will become unpredictable and this will encourage organizations to obtain IPv6 space which will have predictable costs.

Do you have any other thoughts about this subject?

This is a particularly challenging time for the address allocation mechanisms put in place when the Internet was a far different place. I anticipate there will be some chaos as new policy regimes are developed and implemented. Perhaps the greatest risk is this chaos will encourage governments to take a larger role in address allocation policy than has been the case to date.

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