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On Aug 21, 2011, at 12:25 AM, Jay Daley wrote:
I think the parallels you draw are entirely wrong. The RIRs are bottom-up policy organisations in their very nature.
I suspect if you look back in history, you'll find that the folks who argued most strenuously against competitive telcos were the folks who argued that competitive services would/could not represent all sectors of society, and that the only way truly universal service could be provided was through monopolies. They would say "the network would suffer" or that "markets could not be trusted" and the only way to ensure "fair and equitable" service was to have a single provider that was forced to abide by bottom-up rulings of "public utility commissions" (or equivalent). As those monopolies were threatened, they lobbied for restrictions against potential new entrants and blocked access by those entrants to resources the entrants needed to do business.
While no analogy is prefect, as I said, I see a number of parallels. YMMV.
Whatever faults they have in their policies come largely because that process inherently reflects the foibles of the participating stakeholders, not from the arrogance of those in charge.
I don't actually care who is to blame for any faults (after all, some of the blame could probably be laid at my feet :-)). What matters is what happens in the future. APNIC's free pool is exhausted. The AP region is (I think) growing the fastest amongst all the regions. Pretend that you are an ISP wishing to respond to that growth. There are now multiple organizations that are offering IPv4 address space on (lets call it) the grey market. Would you refuse to consider making use of that option, assuming that the grey market companies provide documentation describing the chain of custody of addresses on that market? If you do, do you think your evil competitors would have the same qualms? Assuming not, which whois database are you going to query when a new prefix shows up at your door? Will you break your customers access to some subset of the Internet by refusing to query a particular database? Will your evil competitors?
The core thesis in Paul's ACM Queue article (as I understand it), that alternative address registries are like alternative DNS root providers and hence bad, is a strawman. It is trivially obvious that multiple address "roots" would lead to madness. That's not what's happening. What is springing up (driven by market demand) are:
- market places where allocated-but-unused address space can be sold to those who are willing to pay for it (e.g., Addrex, tradeipv4.com) - "address registrars" who sell the service of updating registration data associated with existing allocations (e.g., depository.net).
The issue I see is that the existing system is (or has been) structurally unable to evolve to meet the changing environment driven by the exhaustion of the free pool(s). Look at the fiascos associated with attempts to create global policies recently. Do you think this is going to get better as other regions' free pools exhaust?
What we have now is a single addressing root partitioned into 5 arbitrary mutually-agreed geographical monopolies (can you say "cabal"?), each of which have their own policies and processes that are attempting to perform those two services (along with the service of allocating the rapidly dwindling free pool). We've already past the point where the folks involved in "bottom-up" policy making are arguing "region X's policy is wrong, so we're going to actively block it in region Y". Do you think that is going to get better over time? Do you think businesses just trying to provide Internet services have any interest in putting up with that sort of BS if they have an alternative where they just pay their money and get the resources they need?
What the RIRs suffer from is a lack of diversity among participating stakeholders.
While true, this is largely irrelevant since it isn't going to change. Like the telephony world, the vast majority of people are neither interested nor do they care about the machinations involved in establishing the underlying technology's resource management policies. They only care when things break and they need someone to blame.
Prescribing commercial competition as a medicine to tackle the RIR faults is missing this point and likely to harm the numbering space by eliminating the bottom-up policy determination.
The point is that no one is prescribing commercial competition, it is happening on its own. Now. Driven by economic reality. Sticking one's head in the sand or saying "we can't do anything until there is global consensus" or worse, attempting to block it is simply encouraging a negative outcome.
We should instead be looking at what faults the current narrow engagement leads to and showing some leadership in addressing them through the bottom-up policy process, while simultaneously working to broaden engagement so that the RIRs become truly multi-stakeholder.
How long should we wait?