[arin-ppml] Policy Proposal 93: Predicable IPv4 Run Out b Prefix Size - Revised

Tom Vest tvest at pch.net
Mon Jun 22 18:19:23 EDT 2009

On Jun 22, 2009, at 12:37 PM, Milton L Mueller wrote:

>> The only thing that ARIN and/or industry members can do, at any/every
>> point in time, is take steps to make sure that some kind of
>> *functional* IP addresses remain available to aspiring and eligible
>> new entrants on a non-adversarial, non-discriminatory basis
> I've never understood this aspect of your argument, Tom. Please tell  
> me how in an environment of exhaustion of the IPv4 space, ARIN makes  
> IPv4 resources freely available to "aspiring" new entrants on a non- 
> adversarial basis. Scarcity is coterminous with competition for  
> possession. Scarcity means one person's occupation of addresses is  
> mutually exclusive with another's. You posture as the holy man  
> saving the open character of the Internet, but I have not yet heard  
> a single feasible policy proposal from you that makes IPv4 addresses  
> any less scarce.

Hi Milton,

Wow, I don't think anyone has ever accused me of "posturing," much  
less as a holy man.
I'm not quite sure whether to take that as an unintentional compliment  
or an ad hominem attack -- but no matter ;-)

In the world you seem to advocate in all of your research to-date,  
scarcity is a perennial, all-pervasive fact. Privatization and markets  
are the eternal, all-pervasive solution.
Clearly it's always possible to move up or down in abstraction/ 
specificity or to reframe matters in some way so that every  
conceivable issue becomes a problem of scarcity. That can be a handy  
trick, since if one can pull it off one can effortlessly capitalize on  
the (until so recently) near-universal reflexive faith in private  
markets (the more private and unconstrained, the better) as the  
universal panacea that can never go wrong. Come to think of it, for  
some years now haven't you also advocated the "devolution" of IP  
number resource distribution to competing institutions (like the ITU),  
to help overcome the scarcity of policy choices / arbitrage options  
created by the RIR allocation regime "monopoly"?

For the record, I too like markets and private property -- I just  
don't think that I see inescapable scarcity in as many places as you  
do, nor as the "master problem" in all of the places where it actually  

The reason I ask now is because I think that your sudden interest in  
IP address policy is rather opportunistic. I don't think that your  
policy preferences in this domain were, or would have been any  
different 10 years ago, or even 20-30 years ago. The scarcity that  
seems to animate all of your reasoning is the "scarcity of choice"  
that exists at all times in all matters for those who embrace the  
subjective theory of value -- i.e., those for whom IP addresses would  
be equally scarce regardless of whether there are two or two hundred  
or two million /8s in reserve, and for whom the RIRs (and every other  
non-market distribution mechanism) are considered to be equally  
illegitimate at all times. That's not exactly a mainstream view for a  
(public, community, et. al) policy advocate, however -- not even in  
the Internet community, I think. Wouldn't be surprising for moments  
like the present one -- when the idea of "scarcity" naturally  
resonates more widely -- to feel like a terrific opportunity for  
pushing the Doctrine of Pure Perpetual Scarcity without ever having to  
admit that the current conditions that everyone else is worried about  
aren't really all that relevant... without ever being obliged to  
defend or even acknowledge the Doctrine itself.

Everyone has a right to their own philosophy, of course. Even if the  
above is a perfect description of you -- which I am not claiming, any  
more than you are accusing me of being a sham holy roller -- your  
right to advocate your views on address policy matters remains  
absolutely unabridged.

I share the above mainly because I think it helps to clarify why we  
are so radically at odds over this matter (thanks again btw for  
helping to crystallize my thinking on this).
I've been arguing for the exact opposite of your approach to handling  
the looming challenges -- i.e., a "transition of necessity" to your  
"scarcity of choice."
I've resisted engaging in your preferred *scarcity of IPv4* rhetoric  
because I believe that, on balance, people don't care (and also  
shouldn't care) nearly as much about the particulars of addressing  
formats as they do about the *availability of IP addresses that work*  
-- i.e., a preference of function over form. IPv6 could become  
functionally equivalent to IPv4, but only if (after) the market has  
becomes confident enough that IPv4 will never become a permanent  
competitive bottleneck to fully embrace IPv6 (or technically, anything  
else that would eliminate the bottleneck). Obviously that would take  
quite a while to happen under the best of circumstances if the pace of  
IPv6 deployment/activation were the only indicator. Or it could never  
happen at all if the transition is complicated by widespread perceived  
risks of speculation and competitive exploitation of IPv4 bottlenecks  
-- which I suspect are already causing / will continue to cause many  
people to (quite sensibly) put off any irreversible commitments to any  
specific future access technology, perhaps indefinitely.

I don't really think that a delay of centuries is likely. However,  
that's not due to my faith in the infallibility of markets, but rather  
to the glum expectation of external "help" If we're unable to manage a  
prompt, orderly transition on our own. I believe that external help  
would likely create and institutionalize many of the same problems  
that privatization would create, which is why I've argued ad nauseam  
in favor of *community adoption* of modest, scale-sensitive policies  
that would effectively put a ceiling on (not eliminate) speculation,  
and eliminate the kind of opacity/uncertainty and potentially  
existential risks that would likely deter many prudent decision makers  
from gambling their futures, possibly until it's too late.

> I totally share your concern with maintaining open entry, and  
> allowing newcomers. Totally. I just think you've psychologically  
> projected that concern into the wrong place. You did it with the  
> debate over transfer markets, and you just keep doing it.

Thank you for acknowledging the consistency of my position.

> Chopping up the last large blocks and handing them out in small  
> chunks rather than large chunks does not make IP addresses more  
> available to "aspiring and eligible new entrants." There is no  
> guarantee in the policy that the small blocks will go to new  
> entrants rather than, e.g., small incumbents or small chunks to big  
> incumbents, or organizations in the education or financial industry.

A routing service provider that provides routing services to  
themselves is still a "new entrant" in my book, and in the routing  
table; the salient distinction is "initial allocation" vs. "subsequent  
allocation." Have described necessary/appropriate policy distinctions  
between PA & PI in an earlier message; not going to repeat them here.  
Your other sub-points reduce to absolute skepticism about the RIR  
system in general/at all times, along the lines outlined above, so  
I'll ignore them for the moment.

> If your business plan depends on standing first in line for the last  
> remaining scraps of v4 space, then you're entry into the Internet  
> market may be doomed anyway, perhaps that's what Dillon is trying to  
> tell you.

Hopefully the above clarifies this misperception.

> As a rationing device, the finer-slice/maximum limit idea has some  
> merit on purely equitable distribution grounds. But I do wish you'd  
> quit distorting this debate with your posturing about new entrants.  
> You want to do something about new entrants, start taking a look at  
> levels of venture capital, bandwidth costs, spectrum availability,  
> FCC regulations, etc. Any examples of specific firms who've left the  
> market because of inability to access v4 addresses? That would be  
> useful data. anmy data on how many such "aspiring" firms are  
> standing in line waiting for some v4 crumbs? and who business plan  
> depends on it?

A more sensible approach would be to provide a few examples of what  
we'd all be missing today had the community embraced your preferred  
adaptation model back in 1983, or 1993, or even in 2000.

256 "provider independent" institutions, instead of today's 15k-20k. I  
wonder how many readers of this list that are not legacy /8 holders  
would agree that they would be better today off as address-dependent  
customers of GE, or Halliburton, or anyone? I'd be grateful if anyone  
who does feel that way would share a brief note to that effect to ppml.

As late as the mid-late 1990s Japan was the most expensive  
communications services market in the world (IIRC). In 2001 a total  
outsider new entrant pioneered cheap, high capacity flat-rate DSL  
access. In 2000 they had zero, or close to zero, IP addresses. Today  
Japan is the close to being the cheapest and most well provisioned  
access market, thanks to that latecomer -- which is now Japan's  
largest Internet access provider, and also one of the top IP address  
holders in Japan (perhaps #1, will have to refresh my memory).

Google's distributed production network; love'em or hate'em, how much  
do you think Google would have had to pay for IPv4 in a c. 2003 IPv4  
trading market? I think I'd settle for a 10% share of all revenue, but  
people have told me that I'm a pushover...

Note well,

TV, personal opinions only

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