Dimensioning the Elephant: An Empirical Analysis of the IPv4 Transfer Market
14 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2012 Last revised: 1 Sep 2012
Date Written: August 5, 2012
One of the most important but least-studied aspects of Internet policy is the emergence of a trading market for previously allocated Internet address blocks. The controversies associated with commoditization of Internet addresses, and the way the emergence of an IPv4 market conflicts with official, rosy narratives about migration to IPv6 makes this topic the "elephant in the room" in Internet governance circles.
This paper makes a less than elephantine but nevertheless much-needed empirical contribution to the literature on the economics and institutions of IP numbering. Drawing on RIR and Whois records, it compiles factual information about the number of address blocks that have been traded and their size as a percentage of the overall address space. It analyzes the scant information that exists about the pricing of these resources. It also examines whether some of the tradead addresses are now being routed or not. The paper then shows how this factual information can be applied to certain policy issues, in particularly the role of needs assessment and property rights in IPv4 number blocks. By outlining the basic parameters of the emerging market, and examining the impact that the RIRs’ policies and disclosure practices have on it, the paper will provide a more solid empirical basis for ongoing debates about IPv4 address trading policies.
This research is supported by the Next Generation Infrastructures Foundation of the Netherlands.
Keywords: IP addressing, Internet governance, Regional Internet Registries, IP address markets
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