By Calder Phillips-Grafflin
Last week, the international organization in charge of the distribution of IP addresses (ICANN) distributed the last remaining blocks of IPv4 internet protocol (IP) addresses. Once these last blocks are filled, which will likely happen before the end of the year, there will be no more continuous IPv4 address blocks.
In short, for regions without free IPv4 addresses, it won’t be possible for new devices to connect to the internet. Without emergency measures in these areas, the rapid growth of the internet will grind to a halt.
A combination of conservative business moves and denial have allowed most corporations and ISPs to ignore the pending IPv4 drought. After all, IPv4 allows for 4 billion different addresses. Who would have ever thought that there would be that many devices on the internet?
What does this mean for you as a student? Hopefully, nothing; modern computers all natively support IPv6, and organizations like colleges have enough free IP addresses that they won’t run out before they transition to IPv6. In theory, the switch from IPv4 to IPv6 will happen one night and you’ll wake up and live your life none the wiser. Of course, things of this magnitude rarely go without a hitch.
In the meantime, before the transition, there are a few things you can do to be better prepared. If you’re in the market for a new ISP, try to find one that provides IPv6. Make sure all your hardware supports IPv6 (including whatever modem/router your ISP gave you), and you should be good for the next couple of years.