IP addresses are unique numbers that map computers across the Internet. Obtaining them has become a high priority for service providers and large organizations. Here's a look at the gatekeepers who oversee how the numbers are handed out.
Chain of power
Below are the organizations responsible for distributing IP address numbers.
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
Based on a 1998 agreement with the Commerce Department, ICANN oversees the
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and controls how the Net's 4.29
billion IP addresses are used.
Under ICANN, IANA distributes address space to three geographically diverse
Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) and is supposed to encourage all three
RIRs to operate so that addresses remain unique, are mapped efficiently,
and are treated as a precious resource.
Regional Internet Registries (RIR) Three nonprofit registries
dole out available pools of IP based
on a shared criteria. All deploy numerical address space to ISPs, local
registries, and in some cases small users.
American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN)
Hands out number blocks to thousands of major ISPs such as WorldCom,
UUNet, Sprint, and other large users of IP addresses, such as corporations
and colleges. Many of ARIN's customers then pass the numbers on to smaller
or end users.
Réseaux IP Européens (RIPE)
This registry allocates IP
numbers for all of Europe and gives out number blocks to any ISP no matter
Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC)
Like ARIN it encourages
smaller ISPs to go upstream and get IP numbers from bigger providers. Large
members include: Japan and Korea Network Information Centers, China
Telecom, and China Education and Research Network.
Sources: ARIN, ICANN, Tony Rutkowski
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