RealTime IT News

Red Flags Raised About Fed's IPv6 Plans

WASHINGTON -- Without more government leadership on the transition to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), U.S. commerce could potentially face "devastating" competition from Europe and Asia.

According to testimony before a House panel Wednesday, Europe and Asia have invested more than $800 million in the next generation IP protocol designed for more address space, mobility and security in peer-to-peer networking. Japan's NTT has more IPv6 customers than all American companies combined.

"A loss of public trust and reputations over U.S. networks using the existing, highly vulnerable IPv4 protocol, coupled with an increase in trust if IPv6 networks in [Europe and Japan] could have a devastating effect on America's service economy," Alex Lightman, CEO of Charmed Technology, told the lawmakers.

Without U.S. government leadership, he warned, "We get a loss of millions of jobs and market share across thousands of companies."

IPv4 has been in use for almost 30 years and cannot support emerging requirements brought on by broadband networks. IPv6 will coexist with IPv4 and eventually provide better internetworking capabilities than those currently available with IPv4.

The Pentagon lit a fire under U.S. IPv6 interests when it announced in 2003 that it planned to convert to the new protocol by 2006, a date that has already been pushed back to 2008. In April, the White House directed all federal agencies to provide a preliminary report on their planning activities for the transition to IPv6.

"Only the Department of Defense (DOD) had taken any significant effort in this area," Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) E-Government administrator, said Wednesday. "We are about to take the first step and issue a policy memorandum providing guidance to the agencies to ensure an orderly and secure transition to IPv6."

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued Wednesday, confirmed Evans' assessment. "Unlike the DOD, the majority of other federal agencieshave not yet initiated transistion planning for IPv6," the report states.

Evans told the House Committee on Government Reform that the OMB is setting a June 2008 date for all federal agencies' network backbones to be using IPv6.

"Once the backbones are ready, the applications and other elements will follow," Evans said. "Overall, the actions set out in our policy will begin to address the many challenges that come with the IPv6 transition."

For Charmed's Lightman, who also serves as chairman of the Coalition Summit for IPv6, the government leadership can't come fast enough.

"When the U.S. government showed leadership, as we did with the post office, the interstate highway system, airplanes, lasers, radar, computer chips and satellites, we are world leaders even decades later," he said. "Where our government did not show leadership, including color televisions, big screens and high definition television, digital cameras and DVDs, America plays almost no role, except as a consumer."

Lightman urged Congress to mandate IPv6 for the entire federal government.