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New IP address registry opens for business (1997)

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Boston (January 2, 1997) -- The new registry for assigning IP (Internet Protocol) numbers for the Americas, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa is now open, and for the first time it will cost to get an IP address.

The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) was spun off from the former registrar, Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), in an attempt to separate IP addresses from the contentious issue of domain names, according to Kim Hubbard, ARIN's president.

ARIN began operation on December 22, 1997.

There was concern that IP numbers would get dragged into the domain name quarrel, Hubbard said. "The community and government thought that separating the [IP] administration from domains would be a good thing," she said.

IP addresses are numbers which must be assigned to every computer or server which is directly connected to the Internet; hosts connecting through dial-up methods are assigned whatever number is available when they initiate the connection and retain the number for the duration of that session. Domain names are alphabetic representations of underlying Internet addresses such as .com or .org, and each host does not need its own.

NSI's contract with the U.S. government to assign IP addresses and domain names expires in March, and assorted Internet stakeholders have been jockeying for control of what are essentially the underlying administrative tasks of the Internet. The power to assign domain names is especially coveted, in part because of the emotional and legal context which, for example, ibm.com conveys, a context which is lacking in IP addresses, which are strictly numerical.

According to Hubbard, after consulting with the government, NSI elected to create a separate company, ARIN, to handle IP addresses, while NSI retains the domain-name function, at least until the March contract deadline. At that point the domain-name system is likely to be thrown open to competition.

"It makes sense for domain names to be competitive, but not really IP numbers," Hubbard said. IP numbers are a limited, finite resource, but domain names can be anything, she said.

ARIN will charge for IP addresses, but only to cover its costs; the Chantilly, Virginia-based company is a non-profit organization with a staff of only 17, according to Hubbard.

Existing IP address holders will not be charged, but ISPs requiring new addresses will be charged from US$2,500 to $20,000 per year, depending on their size, she said.

Individuals or corporations wanting new IP addresses must pay a one-time charge of between $2,500 and $10,000, along with an annual $30 registration fee, Hubbard said.

"We try to keep the fees such that the average ISP wouldn't feel compelled to pass that charge along to their customers," Hubbard said.