How the Internet is running out of room, and what we must do about it
"CDT Fellows Focus" is a series from CDT that presents the views of other notable experts on tech policy issues. This week, CDT Fellow Jonathan Zittrain and Leslie Daigle write about the end of IPv4 address space. Guest posts featured in "CDT Fellows' Focus" don't necessarily reflect the views of CDT; the goal of the series is to present diverse, well-informed views on significant tech policy issues.
The Internet's framers famously designed it without predicting much about how, or how much, it would be used. For example, the network's capacity was conceived less in a count of precisely how many could participate at once – the way traditional phone circuits worked – and more in flexibly divisible bandwidth. As that bandwidth got saturated, it would degrade gracefully: data might move slower for everyone, but no one would get an "all circuits are busy" message. In ways large and small, what animates Internet protocol design is a procrastination principle: if something can work well, it doesn't have to be perfect, and not every problem or limit must be anticipated and preempted. Potential but still speculative flaws can be fixed later – possibly somewhere other than inside the network.
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