Colleges could profit as internet runs out of addresses

These blocks, each with 16.8 million addresses, will be distributed to the regional registries.

That means the regional groups will have IP addresses to distribute further to internet service providers, websites, and others before running out.

Curran expects to deplete his allotment in six to nine months.

Universities might be able to “avoid major growing pains” if companies, organizations, and institutions that hold the rights to hundreds of millions of unused IPv4 addresses reallocated those addresses and built “their systems with IPv6 standards,” said Raymond Schroeder, director of the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Center for Online Learning, Research, and Services.

“This certainly is a point of transition. … The success of the internet has far outstripped our visions of decades ago,” he said. “But it doesn’t have to be a point of disaster or scarcity of addresses.”

The current internet address system, IPv4, has been in place since the 1980s.

It allows for a theoretical maximum of 4.3 billion addresses in use, far beyond what was thought necessary for what was then mainly a network for academic use.

Engineers have known for years that the pool of these IP addresses would one day run out. Websites and service providers have been experimenting with a new technology that allows for many more addresses — an infinite number, for all practical purposes.

But many have been slow to do so because of a lack of immediate benefits. The exhaustion of IP addresses at the top level puts pressure on them to move more quickly.

Curran said only about 2 percent of websites support IPv6.

However, many of those are the most-visited sites on the internet, including Google and Facebook. He expects smaller sites to scramble for IPv6 addresses now.

As internet service providers run out of IPv4 addresses, they’ll have to give subscribers IPv6 addresses.

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