This story detailing Microsoft’s purchase of Nortel’s IPv4 address blocks has a quote that sums up the IPv4 shortage issue:
The Regional Internet Registries, which allocate IP addresses, do not typically view IP as an asset that can be bought and sold. There are processes being developed for assignees to return unused IPv4 to the free pool, for the good of the internet community.
The ‘good of the Internet community’? Have these people used the Internet? 🙂
IPv6 is being billed as the cure-all, but unfortunately there is as of yet far too much legacy technology out there to make discarding IPv4 worthwhile. This has led to a shortage of IPv4 addresses, however, if there was a market available where people could buy or sell the IPv4 blocks that they own it would bring added IPv4 capacity to the market. Even if fully implemented, IPv6’s vast address space merely covers up for the incompetence of the RIR’s management of the address blocks and doesn’t actually address any fundamental flaws in IPv4 (while arguably, creating whole new undesirable issues).
As an example, at my current location we have a whole class C address block (~253 usable addresses) that we acquired back in the day when one would call and request a number of addresses and the IPv4 addresses were handed over with very few questions asked. Most companies this size get by with one to five addresses using PAT and whatnot, but I have the advantage of running an ultra-inefficient Internet setup with huge swaths of dynamic NAT pools, static addresses to equipment that I might need once a year, and a honeypot sitting on top of well over 150 of the remaining addresses. For a price which would justify a move to a more efficient setup under an ISP address block we might be willing to part with them, otherwise there’s no cost justification in having to make the changes.
Due to the existence of large ‘dark IP address blocks’, the current lack of true ownership and transferability of these blocks has led to a shortage of those that can be used, and an Internet ‘slum’ where hackers can hang out in address pools that have gone fallow. There is no real shortage, only a ‘commons’ that has been improperly managed.