Saturday, March 03, 2012

IP Addresses

[Student Post]
For those that didn’t know, the world is running out of IP Addresses:
It has been known for some time that the current structure of IP addresses is not sufficient for the number of computers/devices accessing the internet in future. The current structure of IP addresses, known as IPv4, is structured as (e.g. which limits this number of unique addresses to 4,294,967,296.
With the limit of Ipv4 addresses expected to be exhausted soon and the number of internet connected devices estimated to reach 22 billion by 2020 (IMS Research) it is clear a new IP standard is required.
Thankfully a group known as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has been developing IPv6 since the early 90’s which provides for 340 undecillon (that’s 340 with 36 zeros) unique addresses. (e.g. 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334).  However, proliferation of IPv6 has been slow with Google estimating in 2008 that IPv6 uptake among users was less than 1%. The need for replacement and/or updating of some hardware and software is partly to blame for this slow rate of uptake.
So it seems a significant burden has been placed on the IETF to ensure the smooth running of the internet through the adoption of IPv6. That’s a lot of technical control for how the internet of the future is run. Interestingly the IETF is a volunteer organisation with no formal membership. Their work is funded by employers of its volunteers and sponsors including the US National Security Agency (NSA).
                Questions this raises for me:
-          If IPv6 is developed through volunteers Is the internet controlled and owned by everyone?
-          Although ICANN is no longer US Government controlled it seems the IETF may be to some extent. If all roads lead to the US is the US government in control of the internet?
Another way of thinking about this issue might be “Who has the deepest level of technical control over how the internet is run?” Maybe that’s the IETF.


Victor said...

With regards to the question of whether the US government ultimately has a right to control the internet because of the resources it has invested in its creation and development, I would assume that while theoretically it could, in reality it has lost that chance a long time ago.

Here are a few reasons:

1) The concept of the internet being owned by everybody and thus by nobody is already so deeply embedded in each individual (figuratively speaking) and sub sequentially in each country, that asserting ownership over it may result in very serious consequences on a global scale.

2) While one could say that the US has been the most significant contributor to the development of the internet it most definitely has not been the only one.

3) Subsequently no one can say that the US might maintain its current position. In fact as we are witnessing in other areas (eg economic growth) developing countries like China and India are climbing to the top of the charts mainly because of the speed of their growth and sheer size of their population. Eg. If one of these countries would eventually surpass the US in its contribution to the innovation and development of the internet would they have any larger right than anyone else?

+ we are talking about augmenting IP addresses, but is it really enough? Not just because of the increase use of devices now accessing the internet but also because of the rate at which we are disposing of them and changing them with new ones.

David Callaghan said...

With the number of different classes of 'contollers' or 'owners' of the internet that we discussed in class last week, the lingering issue I was left with was the management of the competing interests from each class.

Obviously each class of persons has their own objectives and their own reasons for implementing certain policy. This, of course, will lead to conflicting policy from each class, country, company body etc. These policy interests stem from both financial and social considerations.

The establishment of the IETF and their control over the development and implementation of the IPv6 as referred to in this post seems to give them the ability to steer internet governance (at least over the new IP addresses) in a different direction.

I'm not sure of the extent of their control, but could this create the potential scenario whereby users on IPv6 are subject to different rules than those currently?

If so, this could further confuse the 'control' and 'ownership' debate we had in class.

Hiyuki Ong said...

In regards to who owns the internet:

In my opinion, providing technical advancement on the internet (or any technology for that matter) is like publishing an academic paper: the content and information is provided (and owned) by the academic, and published on a journal. However, this does not mean that the journal belong to the academic. The journey is a platform for the information to be published and use.

However, in the case of IPv6, which is essential for the internet to continue to function, that might mean that the people who created IPv6 will eventually own the internet, since it is now necessary to have that technology in order for the internet to continue to exist.Indirectly, the US government can be the owner of the internet, since they are partiality funding the research. It will come down to the release of the technology: does the US government want to claim ownership over this technology, and indirectly over the internet, or will it allow IETF to function as an individual organisation with no affiliation to them?

So, my point in summary: You don't own a platform because you have contributed to the advancement of the platform, unless your contribution is essential for the platform to continue its existence(aka without your contribution, the platform would have die). The owner of the internet will be an organisation which contributed the majority percentage of resources in order to maintain it's existence.
--Bilin Ong

denny said...

There's some misconception as to the nature of the IETF and its potential for control over the internet. The IETF is an engineering association which plays a significant role in developing international standards and protocols, almost all internet related technology and protocols started as an IETF RFC (request for comment, i.e. protocol proposal). The lifecycle of an RFC tends to be proposal -> review -> re-draft -> approval. But the end product is merely an agreed standard there's no leverage or power and no after approval governance or oversight on the part of the IETF.

IPv6 is certainly a product of the IETF process however it's adoption and governance will be overseen by ICANN/IANA just as IPv4 (current IP addressing scheme)is.

It's important to note that generally the tech standardisation process is operated precisely to avoid questions of control and ownership. Firstly standards adoption and creation is undertaken on the mutual understanding that the reduced economic friction created by widely used standards benefits everybody. Secondly there are robust controls in place to ensure that "ownership" of protocols is avoided with requirements that standards either be unencumbered by patents or that all contributors agree to either royalty-free or fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms (See Motorola's FRAND problem )

Elizabeth said...

In regards to who owns the Internet. I think the whole concept is complicated by the fact that the Internet is not just made up of content we view, such as webpages or journals. There is also the underlying hardware. The hardware is not free, someone is paying for the hardware and its maintenance. No one organization owns all of the hardware. The location of hardware in various countries with different laws and regulations also complicates matters.

No one country can control all of the Internet, just a small section. For example China controls its citizens view of the Internet. If one country or organization owned/controlled the Internet that would not be possible.

The Internet crosses too many borders, and the content is not controlled at a single point. Anyone, anywhere can upload/edit content. There are many variations in communication methods as well, such as email, irc, ftp, web page and IM.

In conclusion, small sections of the Internet may be filtered/controlled, but overall, the entire Internet cannot, at least not by one Country or Organization.