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BC government joins worldwide effort to save the Internet

For years Internet engineers forewarned the world of a day the Internet would run out of numbers -- when the billions of digital devices that communicate on the web would outpace the number of unique IP addresses originally alloted to them.

So to help pave the way for a new Internet address system that promises to solve the shortage, the B.C. government joined digital heavy-weights Google, Facebook and Yahoo! and more than 400 other companies and organizations Wednesday to thwart the demise of the web.

It was World IPv6 Day, a global test of Internet Protocol version 6, a new Internet address system designed to remedy the dwindling supply of IPv4 addresses.

B.C. was the only Canadian governmental institution listed on the Internet Society’s list of participants in the 24-hour "test flight" of the new set of unique digits needed to identify all the individual devices connected to the Internet.

"The province believes that the public sectors need to show leadership in the adoption of IPv6 addresses," reads an email from the Office of the Chief Information Officer of B.C. to the Tyee.

The province hoped to use the test day to "find out how many organizations wish to access government using IPv6," information they’ll use to gauge the new system’s "criticality, implementation timelines and find out if there are any technical issues."

Internet engineers thought the 4.3 billion Internet protocol addresses would be enough when they created IPv4 in 1977.

"I thought it was an experiment and I thought that 4.3 billion would be enough to do an experiment," said Google vice president Vint Cerf, considered to be one of the "founding fathers" of the Internet, in a Sydney Morning Herald interview.

"Who the hell knew how much address space we needed?" he said.

The goal of Wednesday’s event was to motivate organizations to "prepare their services for IPv6 to ensure a successful transition as IPv4 addresses run out," according to the website for the Internet Society, the creator of the event.

A ceremony in February marked the official depletion of available IPv4 addresses. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority doled out the remaining blocks of addresses to the regional bodies responsible for their allocation.

A precipitous rise in the number of devices connected to the Internet is blamed for the shortage of IPv4 addresses. And it’s not just computers and mobile phones. Printers, routers and even cars and refrigerators need IP numbers to communicate on the internet. How else will you tweet from your freezer?

More than 15 billion devices will need addresses by 2015, according to a report published by Cisco Systems, a US networking company.

And while the explosion in internet-connected devices has overrun the old system, 15 billion is nowhere near the amount the new system can handle.

The IPv6 standard can accommodate 340 undecillion addresses -- or 340,282,366,920,938,463,374,607,431,768,211,456, to be precise.

-- With files from the Canadian Press

Tyler Harbottle is completing a practicum at The Tyee. Contact him by email or on Twitter.

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