Here is more evidence of how the emergence of a private market for IPv4 addresses is creating concern at ARIN and driving policy change. Note that in my interview with private address broker Addrex, published here a week ago, its President Charles Lee noted that large ISPs in the Asia Pacific region were showing strong buyer interest in legacy address blocks currently sitting idle in North America. This poses a problem for the current RIR system. The RIRs are organized around exclusive territorial regions and their policies basically prohibit inter-regional sales of address blocks. A private broker dealing in legacy address space, however, is not subject to those constraints. Once again, an emergent market subtly disrupts the establish institutional regime.
ARIN is, evidently, scrambling to catch up. A new proposal was submitted to ARIN's policy development process just yesterday. Entitled “ARIN-prop-156 Update 8.3 to allow inter-RIR transfers” it would allow inter-regional market transfers. Here is the specific language:
“…IPv4 number resources may be released to ARIN by the authorized resource holder, in whole or in part, for transfer:…to another RIR, for transfer to a specified recipient in that RIR's service region who demonstrates plans to deploy the resources for the justified purpose within 3 months, as long as the request meets the policy requirements of both RIRs, and the recipient (and any organizations to which they have transferred or reassigned space) can show efficient utilization of all prior allocations, assignments, and transfers according to the current policy requirements of both RIRs.”
But adjusting the incumbent regime will not be easy. Note how complicated this process is: you transfer not from buyer to seller but to another RIR who controls the buyer's region. Note the rather severe restrictions attached to the transfer: the allocation is still contingent upon demonstrated need, the resources must be deployed within 3 months, the request must meet the policy requirements of both RIRs, and the recipient must run a gauntlet proving that they are efficiently utilizing all prior allocations, assignments and transfers that have ever been given to them in the last 15 years.
Even with all this bureaucratic baggage thrown in, it is unclear how the proposal could be implemented in the current RIR system. Paul Wilson, the Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific RIR (APNIC), popped up on the ARIN policy discussion list within hours of this proposal being posted and asked:
* “Has there been any consideration of the cost and practicality of this approach?
* “Is it possible that a recipient would be asked to pay ARIN to cover the cost of this service?
* “Would a registration services agreement be required with ARIN?”
To which John Curran, Wilson's counterpart at ARIN, responded: “Without additional clarity (either in the policy proposal or filled in during the staff assessment), it is very uncertain how proposal-16 would be implemented.” The proposal has sparked an interesting debate about “trade reciprocity” in address blocks, which is archived here.
What's at stake here is not really implementation detail, but a structural tension between the regionally exclusive nature of the existing RIR address allocation/regulation system, and the existence of a global market for IPv4 addresses (and internet services generally). The problem could be avoided if the RIRs were integrated into a more globalized system, and/or by dumping the insistence on needs assessments, which creates a layer of bureaucracy and inspection that adds little of value to the Internet marketplace but does add huge barriers to trade. But while those barriers do little for users and suppliers of internet service, they are perceived by each RIR as absolutely necessary for them to retain policy control.