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Policy Motion Draft: Next-Generation Internet

June 19, 2014

When I’m not doing politics, I work in IT as a systems and network administrator. This involves dealing with the Internet Protocol (IP) a lot. This is basically the thing that makes the Internet (and hence the Web, which is a subset of the Internet) work. Trouble is, it’s based on an assumption that everything directly connected to the Internet (like your BT HomeHub, Virgin box or whatever) can have a unique identifier called an IP address. But there’s so much stuff connected to the Internet these days from smartphones to lamp-posts that we’re running out of unique identifiers allowed by the current version of the Internet Protocol.

Networking geeks basically solved this problem over 15 years ago in 1998 with a new version of the Internet Protocol, but we’re still using the old one because there’s no real incentive for anybody to switch before anybody else does. It’s a classic tragedy of the commons, so wearing my political hat I think there’s a case for the Government to lean on the industries.

I’ve drafted a policy motion on mandating rollout of IPv6 to end users for Lib Dem Conference in Glasgow. It’s aimed at a non-technical audience, so I’ve elided or hinted at some of the problems of address space exhaustion such as route fragmentation. I’ve had a couple of non-technical people read it, and they can grasp the gist: “There is a problem. There is a solution, but nobody’s doing anything about it. The Government should make them.” Note that I’m only addressing the ISP side; hosting and content providers are largely based outside the UK, particularly cloud-based ones, and it’s a business with tight profit margins; I think that if everybody has the ability to reach you on IPv6, then increasing IPv4 prices (and policies of IPv4 allocators such as RIPE) will encourage those providers to implement IPv6 of their own accord.

I’ll be encouraging my local party to support it, but the more LPs we get behind it (and individual conference reps) the better. Let me know if you have any suggested alterations to the text, or whether you or your local party would like to support the motion.

Maybe in 10 years I’ll be proposing a motion to deprecate IPv4…

Policy Motion: Connecting More Devices to the Internet

Conference understands that:

  1. the Internet provides many opportunities for building a stronger economy and a fairer society, in line with the UN Special Rapporteur’s report from 2011 which states that “ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all States”
  2. the Internet uses the Internet Protocol to allow computers to talk to each other
  3. the Internet Protocol currently in use (IPv4, from 1981) only allows around 4 billion direct connections to the Internet
  4. these direct connections are nearly exhausted, which will prevent new direct connections to the Internet
  5. there is increased demand for Internet-connected devices from phones and tablets, through to lamp posts and paving slabs, for building dynamic and interactive networked systems
  6. allowing more direct Internet connections creates opportunity for new technologies and businesses, creating jobs and growth
  7. a new version of the Internet Protocol (IPv6, from 1998) allows 380 billion billion billion billion direct Internet connection
  8. IPv6 is seeing active daily use and is ready for wider deployment, but is not offered by most UK Internet Service Providers to their customers
  9. IPv6 is supported by recent versions of Windows, OS X and GNU/Linux operating systems among others
  10. IPv6 can co-exist with IPv4 (“dual stack”) for computers to access services over both protocols during the transition
  11. IPv6 can make services such as video conferencing easier to implement

Conference notes that:

  1. major providers such as Microsoft are having to take measures to compensate for lack of available connections which has side-effects such as slowing connections
  2. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are working around lack of IPv4 addresses with “Carrier Grade NAT” which can result in one customer being blocked from a service due to the actions of another customer
  3. any attempt to extend usage of the old Internet Protocol is a short-term measure given increased demand for direct connections
  4. there is little incentive for ISPs to offer IPv6 to customers while it is not needed to access services and content
  5. there is little incentive for content and service providers to use IPv6 while it is not offered by ISPs
  6. the lack of a market incentive to lead ISPs and providers towards deployment of a superior solution makes it appropriate for the Government to intervene

Conference calls for:

  1. the Liberal Democrats in Government to require ISPs in the UK to provide global IPv6 addresses to their customers to allow more direct connections to the Internet
  2. all Government websites and online services to be accessible over IPv6 within 5 years
  3. ISP-provided routers to allow use of IPv6 addresses by the customer’s computers
  4. the rollout to be completed by a fixed deadline no more than 5 years after legislation is passed or an agreement is made
  5. Liberal Democrats in Europe to call for European-wide legislation or agreement on the roll-out of IPv6

Update: My policy motion was not accepted for Autumn Conference 2014.

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  1. July 30, 2014 at 8:04 pm
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