[ppml] Research on transfer markets, was: RFC 1744 and its discontents

Tom Vest tvest at pch.net
Fri Apr 18 00:56:08 EDT 2008

On Apr 18, 2008, at 8:35 AM, Scott Leibrand wrote:

> Geoff Huston wrote:
>> I'm not sure that its a case of providing direction as you infer, or
>> following behind the actions of industry players. The transfer  
>> proposal,
>> at least in the APNIC region, is a proposal to recognise in the  
>> registry
>> the outcomes of actions between address holders that result in the  
>> movement
>> of address resources.
> In the ARIN region, the situation seems to be somewhat different, in
> that ARIN is in a stronger position (largely operating within a single
> legal system, for example).  However, we still can't impose on the
> industry a solution that doesn't work for them, so we're trying to
> recognize the likely outcomes of IPv4 exhaustion, and put policies in
> place that legitimate the beneficial aspects while doing what's within
> our power to help alleviate some of the more detrimental aspects.
> k claffy wrote:
>>> 1744 is a nice essay and would make nice phd thesis proposal,
>>> but someone (or several) ought to go off and do the research
>>> and write a few theses.   i believe ben edelman is doing good
>>> thinking and his writeups will be useful, but if we think
>>> that's sufficient, we're in a heap of denial. the kneejerk
>>> "but there is no truly related work; this is a whole new world!"
>>> position i keep hearing from some of the smartest people i know
>>> has me wondering how many days till men in suits come in and take  
>>> over.
> <snip>
>>> otherwise this exercise looks like promoting blatant cyberlandgrab,
>>> which i don't believe is what any of the registries intend.
>>> (good intentions are not sufficient here, we also need good  
>>> research.)
> One big overarching meta-assumption I think we might differ on is
> distinguishing what is ideal (what the men in suits could do with the
> power of government behind them) and what is possible (what those of  
> us
> in jeans can do within our policy development framework).  For  
> example,
> if the government gets involved they can dictate how IP addresses get
> privatized.  But as long as we think a non-regulated system is better
> for the industry, we have to work within what's already been done (for
> example, we can't force legacy holders to give back space, or charge
> high per-address fees to encourage conservation).

Hi Scott,

I think we all think of ourselves as realists/pragmatists, but that  
doesn't require us to be so fatalistic.
There's a vast middle ground between men with suits and guns and  
Hobbe's nasty, brutish (and short) competition of all against all.  
It's called "collective action" -- i.e., members of the community  
voluntarily, collectively deciding to undertake some action(s), or to  
forebear from taking some action(s), with the goal of achieving some  
outcome that is preferable to external occupation or complete anarchy.  
Wasn't that what happened when the community established the RIRs, and  
agreed to abide by the policies that community members themselves  

> If there was a land grab, it has occurred gradually over my lifetime.

Can you tell us what "land grab" means precisely, and point us all to  
statistical evidence that that has already happened -- and already  
happened to such a degree that everyone should dismiss the wholesale  
privatization of IP address resources as "nothing new"?

>>> i've only spent a few hours thinking about this, but i see at
>>> least 5 specific research questions that the registries should
>>> [get icann to use some of their $57M/yr budget to, or do themselves
>>> if icann won't] sponsor and guide an interdisciplinary working group
>>> to rigorously study and get peer reviewed publications for the
>>> community to learn from before even launching any proposals:
>>> 	(1) comparison of ip address allocation and spectrum
>>> 	allocation, including different models used in different
>>> 	countries, and metrics for evaluation of efficiency
>>> 	and consumer surplus generated
>>> 	(2) comparison to other industries privated in this country:
>>> 	electricity, natural gas, trucking, airlines, telecom
>>> 	(3) comparison to other industries privated in other
>>> 	countries, esp G7
>>> 	(4) comparison to other industries privated in our own
>>> 	field: ip transit, dns
>>> 	(5) comparison to other market reforms in last 200 years:
>>> 	russia, china, india, latin america.
>>> for each comparison, the similarities and differences to address
>>> markets should be compared, metrics of success proposed/described,
>>> data gathered/analyzed, models built.
> In my mind, these are good and useful comparisons, but to my mind they
> presuppose that the entity making the policy has authority to change
> allocations and/or privatize resources.

I'm curious -- are you suggesting that in the other cases, the policy  
entity had such "authority" but in this case the address resource  
community does not? To me, that seems like a strange (or maybe deeply  
depressing) position for an elected representative of the community to  

In any case I disagree with your claim. Different sectors and/or  
national economies can be looked at as "natural experiments."
You can look at the outcomes of individual cases -- where they  
perceived to be "successful" and by whom, who were the winners and  
losers, how did things look (x) years on, etc. -- all without getting  
stuck on how the initiatives got started. If you find that the results  
varied under different circumstances, then you can consider whether  
those results can be explained (i.e., dismissed) based on the the  
particulars of who initiated and drove the changes.

> Perhaps another angle would be to look at the dynamics of real-world
> transfer markets.  I think the closest analogy would be to real  
> estate.
>  For starters, our situation is much like that of a number of
> developing countries where residents didn't have title to their land.
> In some cases, when they were given title, and a working system, and
> were able to do all the good things you'd expect (buy & sell land, use
> it as collateral for loans, etc.).  In other cases, the system didn't
> work well, transactions were not recorded properly in the central
> registry, no one knew exactly who had what, etc.  I'm not sure what
> exactly the differences were between the systems that worked and those
> that didn't, but I'm pretty sure a researcher could tease out the
> distinctions and come up with some lessons for how to structure a
> transfer system for IP addresses.

Land is a great comparison -- but not in modern times, when ownership  
and pricing is transparent, and there are lots of jobs other than  
being a farmer, and political and economic self-determination are not  
inextricably linked to land ownership. The right comparison is land,  
and the role of land and land markets in the 19th century and earlier.  
That's when land was "non-substitutable", just as IPv4 is today.

>> So I agree
>> wholeheartedly with the proposition that this topic would benefit  
>> from
>> further study and, in particular, comparative studies as you  
>> suggest here.
> Likewise.
>> But, as you are aware, the processes that will lead to IPv4  
>> unallocated address pool
>> exhaustion are inexorably grinding away, and we have very little  
>> time left if
>> we believe that there is a benefit in taking actions before the  
>> event.
>> I suspect that the post mortem analyses of this event will be many  
>> and varied, but
>> the question before us at the moment is a more pragmatic question  
>> of what can we do
>> as address registries in the interests of a cohesive single  
>> Internet that
>> would be of common benefit here that would not endanger the  
>> internet at the same
>> time, and be achievable within the time available to us?
> Well put.  I don't claim to know how to do (or direct) research, but I
> do know that we need to focus our attention on the things that are
> relevant to what is possible under the RIRs policy development  
> processes
> (for now),

This is potentially very useful advice. However, to operatioanlize it,  
please clarify:

1. what is possible under the RIR policy development process?
2. what is impossible under the RIR policy development process?

Or to be more pointed:

3. Is collective action still possible under the RIR policy  
development process?

Once that is clarified, figuring out what is/is not relevant should be  
easy enough...

> and particularly on research whose outcomes include
> recommendations for how we can improve our policies to help steer a
> middle course between potential negative outcomes on both sides.

That's definitely a goal that we share.



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