British government agency hoards addresses as IP well runs dry
Europe has tapped out its supply of Internet addresses in its assigned range, but some tech prospectors believe they've found some IPv4 gold—a full block of 16,777,216 addresses that isn't used to connect to the Internet. But the British government agency that owns the block of addresses (referred to in IP networking as a /8 block) has no intentions of giving it up, even though almost none of the addresses will ever be publicly accessible. That has inspired an electronic petition campaign on a House of Commons website to convince British lawmakers to auction off the address block.
John Graham-Cumming, a programmer for CloudFlare and technology book author, pointed out the address block (from 18.104.22.168 to 22.214.171.124) in a recent blog post, noting that it was apparently unused. Based on a Network World article from May, he estimated the block coud be worth as much as $1.5 billion on the open market, given that it's essentially the last unused block of its size.
The Department of Works and Pensions, which was assigned the block by RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre), acknowledged its ownership of the address block in a response to a Freedom of Information request made by James Marten on behalf of the public watchdog site Whatdotheyknow.com last December. The addresses—or at least about 80 percent of them—are in use, according to a letter from DWP spokesman Phil Tomlinson on behalf of the department's IT group, but none are intended to be accessed from the public Internet. The remainder are being used as the basis for a proposed Public Services Network—a private government intranet.
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