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?

7 thoughts on “Two cheers for APNIC, one cheer for ARIN, none for RIPE

  1. Oh, aren’t we snide!?


    First, why do you assume that any of the RIRs (as organisations) know the price? the APNIC transfer policy says nothing about recording price or cost.

    It does say that “APNIC will maintain a public log of all transfers made under this policy.” So it seems that APNIC is following policy set by their community. The ARIN Number Resource Policy Manual also does not mention anything about collecting the data you seek from STLS participants.

    Second, you keep referring to the RIRs as agencies that act independent of the communities that set their policies. They are not. They act according to community policy.

    That brings me to my 3rd point. When policies aren’t made in a bottom-up fashion (IRC/IOC) you complain…fair enough. When they are made following strict PDPs, you also bitch about “Kommunity” consensus.

    It might be more productive to work within the PDP instead of being snide….just sayin’.

    1. Re: Oh, aren’t we right!?
      I know that the RIR policies do not record price. That is precisely what I was calling into question. Why doesn’t it? Who advocated that it should not? On what basis?
      McTim, we’ve had this conversation before about “the community.” Only people drinking RIR Kool Aid believe the rather fantastic idea that RIRs perfectly reflect the exact wishes of everyone in the community. If you’d bother to think about the idea for just a few minutes, you’d realize that this is not true of ANY governance institution, any time, any where. Organizations may do a better or worse job of embodying consensus and agreement, and I don’t think the RIRs are the worst (e.g., there is the government of China, which also claims to speak for the “Chinese people” routinely) or the best, but I really think you need to grow up and understand the address allocation is a political process and that some people in it dominate and have more powers and others don’t. Moreover, one does not justify a dumb policy by claiming that it reflects something desired by the community – that only implies that the community is dumb. Let’s keep the debate on the merits, ok?

      1. Re: Re: Oh, aren’t we right!?

        JC has already replied re: the price issue, but I’d like to comment on your quote that “RIRs perfectly reflect the exact wishes of everyone in the community.” I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that, have they?

        I am not sure that not listing prices is “dumb”, or that the folks who decided that are either. Put a policy proposal out there and see who salutes it!

  2. Even ‘academics’ are members of the community

    McTim –

    Your response to Milton is right on target: ARIN doesn’t request or record price information for transfers, so it doesn’t have the information to publish.

    With respect to what should be published and the format, ARIN held a community consultation on this exact question back in September 2011; Mr. Mueller did not appear interested in providing any input at that time, despite it being the type of information that one would expect an academic researcher in this space to be interested in…

    It is true that we are in the process of automating research into registration record history (the referenced Whowas service which is presently manual) and that should provide a more facile interface for Milton’s purposes.

    Thanks for your comments as well!

    John Curran
    President and CEO

    1. John, I have many dragons to slay. ARIN is only one of them. And I have a full time job. If you would like to expand IGP’s capacity, you are welcome to contribute a small amount of ARIN’s multi-million $$ reserve to Syracuse University. It’s tax deductible.

      yours in good humor, MM

      p.s., if I am a member of the community, you’d better warn McTim. He thinks everything you do reflects my deepest wishes.

  3. Re: Two cheers for APNIC, one cheer for ARIN, none for RIPE
    Milton, your piece doesn’t properly represent the RIPE NCC’s position and efforts in this area. It is true that we do not keep or provide information on the financial transactions that may accompany the transfer of IP address resources. The RIPE NCC is not a party to such transactions, and therefore has no right to obtain, let alone make public, such details. Unless there are significant changes, both in Internet community policy and law, this will continue to be the case.

    As a Regional Internet Registry, the proper role of the RIPE NCC is to provide an accurate record of who holds IP address resources. The RIPE NCC has taken steps to assist IP address holders that wish to transfer address space, while ensuring that our registry remains up-to-date should commercial transfers become more common. The RIPE NCC Listing Service is one such step, enabling RIPE NCC members to list and exchange IPv4 address space they hold and no longer need, while encouraging any such transfers to be registered in the RIPE Database:

    To repeat what other commenters have already stated though, the RIPE NCC takes no part in, has no influence over, is not concerned with nor takes any responsibility for any financial transaction that may or may not take place in the course of resource transfers. If members of the community wish that status to change, then it is a matter to be discussed and decided through the RIPE community’s open, bottom-up policy development process.

  4. On embodying community consensus…

    Milton –

    The reason that ARIN doesn’t request the price of the transfer is because that aspect was discussed at the time of the transfer policy development and did not gain support.
    The discussion took place on ARIN’s public policy mailing list (PPML) and at the public policy meetings (which have open & free remote participation), and the fact that this policy was under consideration was noted in sessions at NANOG, ICANN, and IGF.

    Even now, it would trivial to initiate a discussion of the merits of changing the current policy to record price information; you would simply need to submit a policy proposal (see and participate in the discussion on the PPML mailing list. As participation is open to all, you could even invite anyone else who might be interested to participate to make sure that all views are considered.

    Truly, I’m not certain what else you would like ARIN to do to enable informed policy discourse. I’m open to any and all suggestions that you might have, as always.


    John Curran
    President and CEO

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