EC task force recommends a 'plan of action' for IPv6

A recommendation to the European Parliament regarding implementation and support for IPv6 addresses clearly states that legislators should, pretty soon, most definitely, whenever they can, do something.

European and Japanese Internet policy experts are now in agreement that the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority will likely run out of possible octet-based IPv4 addresses to assign to prospective registrants as soon as 2010. A recommendation by a task force led by the European Commission (PDF available here) states that as of January 2008, only 16% of the span of IPv4 addresses will be available in the IANA pool.

With fewer than half of Europe's ISPs offering IPv6 to customers, the EC estimates, its recommendation calls for policy makers to somehow compel those ISPs to issue IPv6 addresses to their largest customers. But due to the broken English in which the recommendation was written, it's impossible to tell exactly what the EC is recommending.

"The Commission calls upon content and service providers to make their offer IPv6 accessible by 2010, amongst them the top 100 European web sites," reads the EC's recommendation exactly as it is written. "It intends to facilitate this co-operation through 'Thematic Networks' involving vendors, ISPs, and content and service providers, as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP)."

The invocation of the phrase "Thematic Networks" in this context may also be a little bizarre. Within the EU's native vocabulary, the phrase typically refers to a coalition between universities, teachers, academic analysts, and public officials to study the impact of changes to curricula on the ability of segments of society to perform tasks in a modern economy. In short, it's a sociological term. Apparently, the EC is suggesting the formation of a similarly structured system for public and private sector officials in the Internet industry.

But a thematic network study of the sociological variety often takes years; and if the recommendation's own data is accurate, the Internet community only has two to spend.

The recommendation goes on to suggest that the EC support, both through policy and -- somehow -- through financial aid, the standardization of new Internet communications protocols or new versions of existing Internet protocols (SIP being listed as one example) tailored for IPv6. Government and public sector Web sites and Internet services should move to IPv6 if they have not already done so; and the task force adds that some sort of public awareness campaign should be assembled.

"The Commission will undertake targeted awareness campaigns to various user groups. Such actions are best conducted in public-private partnerships and in cooperation with Member States," the recommendation reads.

With only two years left until the IANA IPv4 pool runs out, the EC states it should be prepared to implement this "plan of action" within the next three years.

A similar policy proposal last June produced with the cooperation of the Japanese Internet registration body JPNIC agreed that the IPv4 address pool could run out of space in 2010 or 2011. It suggested that discussion on the matter be officially extended, and that temporary technological measures be put in place to help extend the lifespan of IPv4, in order to help support the extended discussion period.

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