Internet almost out of space with allocation of last addresses

Editor’s Note: WARNING — Problem-Reaction-Solution lurking

Delays in transition to IPv6 system mean some households and businesses will face connection problems in coming months

Charles Arthur and Josh Halliday

The internet is full. Or, to be more precise, it has run out of new internet addresses – having used up almost 4 billion since being set up 40-odd years ago.

The Internet Address and Naming Agency (IANA), which doles out blocks of new internet addresses (consisting of machine-addressable numbers rather like a phone book), said on Tuesday morning that it will allocate the last seven remaining blocks of addresses this month, including three to the overall internet registrar for Asia and the Pacific.

This could mean that in a year’s time you may hear about a new site – yet when you type its address into a web browser or click a link to it on a web page, your computer simply won’t connect to it because it will use an addressing system entirely different to the one used before.

It could even get worse than that, according to James Blessing, a member of the board of the UK’s Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA). “You might find that you can’t get online unless someone else goes offline,” he said. “It would be like the internet before broadband, when everything was on dial-up modems, and if too many people were dialling in then you couldn’t get connected.”

The problem has been exacerbated, experts agree, because ISPs, governments and companies that make the routers used in households and businesses have ignored the problem until the last moment.

Nor is there any way to estimate the costs involved in changing, because it depends on how well set up each ISP and each household is.

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