by Milton Mueller on Mon 05 Mar 2012 04:34 PM EST
Efficient markets require transparency. In this respect a market for IP addresses should parallel the market in real estate. When you want to buy a house the seller’s name and listed price are a matter of public record. You know who owns the property. You know what the current owner paid for the house. You know the date the sale was concluded. You can compare the offered price on one piece of property to 4 or 5 other parcels of property with similar characteristics. This information is vital. It helps sellers as well as buyers.
But none of that happens with the emerging market for IP addresses. And some of the RIRs seem to be deliberately trying to keep this market as dark – and inefficient – as possible. Researchers at IGP learned this the hard way. We are trying to study this market, but we’ve been surprised at how little information most of the RIRs provide, even as they claim to be public-interested and servants of “the community.”
APNIC, the RIR for the Asia-Pacific region, is the best of the lot. For any address block transfer, you can get the IP address block number/size, the date it was originally delegated, the transferring organization name, the country, the receiving organization name, and the date of the transfer. But there’s one important “detail” missing: the price. Oh, aren’t we coy?
ARIN is worse than coy, it’s perverse. ARIN publishes a list of IP address blocks that were transferred. Just that: a bare, naked IP address block, nothing more. Why did they do it that way? Was it a grudging concession to transparency? Or was it their desire to publish a black list of “ideologically impure” address blocks so that they can urge religiously observant ISPs not to route them? Don’t laugh – there are so many people in ARIN who hate the whole idea of address markets that either explanation is plausible. Anyway, the tiny nuggets of information that thus passes through ARIN’s sphincter allow you to look up who the current registrant is, so you can find out who bought the address. But it doesn’t tell you who had them before. Darn. But wait, you can get that information, if only you genuflect and jump through a hoop or two (that is so, so ARIN). Sign ARIN’s “WHOWAS” service contract, which contains only 13 pages of legalese, and just give ARIN “the right to review, audit and otherwise inspect User’s access and/or use of the WHOWAS Database, any WHOWAS Data, or any part thereof at any time” and you can get a “non-exclusive, non-sublicensable, non-transferable, limited license to use the WHOWAS Database and the WHOWAS Data solely for the purpose of User’s internal non-commercial research into the historical registration information of Internet number resources.” Yay. Still, ARIN doesn’t give you any price information and also doesn’t tell you anything about applications for transfers that fail to make it through their process because the recipient fails to meet their criteria for “need” (a.k.a. insufficient levels of bowing and genuflection before the Kommunity).
Over in Europe, RIPE wins the prize for simplicity – and for obtuseness. If you ask RIPE for any information whatsoever about address block transfers their staff throws up their hands and says: “unfortunately we don’t have these numbers.” RIPE gives you nothing. RIPE hears no evil, sees no evil, speaks no evil. RIPE buries its head in the sand and pretends that nothing important is going on here, move along, please. Ignorance is bliss, right?