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Commerce Dept. Seeking IPv6 Comments

A new Internet protocol task force Tuesday said it wants public input on the next generation of the Internet and how much of a roll government should be taking in the transition.

The U.S. Commerce Department's task force studying issues related to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). The current version of IP is version 4, so it is sometimes referred to as IPv4. The group is seeking comments on the costs and benefits along with appropriate government role in the deployment. Commerce Department spokesperson Clyde Insslin told internetnews.com the notice for public comment will be published in Wednesday's Federal Register.

The task force, called for by President Bush's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, is co-chaired by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

"Before we make any policy decisions, we must fully understand the degree to which the new standard will enable direct connectivity among wireless devices, boost the productivity of the American worker and enrich the experience of the American consumer," said Acting Assistant Secretary Michael Gallagher, acting head of the NTIA, said in a statement. "We also must fully explore the costs and technical impacts of large-scale deployment."

IPv6 is designed to overcome the shortcomings of IPv4, such as the limited number of addresses. The next generation protocol provides a vastly expanded number of addresses for Internet-connected devices, and promises new market applications, improved security and reduced operational expenses for Internet users.

"The interoperability among technologies is a critical element both for national competitiveness and for national security," NIST Director Arden Bement said. "Our task force can play a valuable role in developing an understanding of the merits of, and obstacles to, moving to IPv6. One of the objectives of our task force is to measure the current status of deployment and assess alternative future deployment scenarios, which is vitally important for policy makers."

The request for comments comes a month after the Pentagon's director of architecture and interoperability, discussed the Department of Defense's (DoD) transition to IPv6. During his keynote address, director John L. Osterholz said IPv6 will integrate elements of the DoD's global information grid, including its sensors, weapons, platforms, information and people. The Pentagon's goal is to complete the transition to IPv6 by fiscal year 2008.

The task force is seeking public comment on a variety of topics, including IPv6 characteristics that will either enhance or possibly degrade network security, and affect network access and "traceability." Comments are also sought on the expected costs of upgrading and replacing hardware and software, and of maintaining security during transition to the new standard. All comments are due by March 8.

Officials said comments should be mailed to the Office of Policy Analysis and Development, NTIA, Room 4725, Attention: Internet Protocol, Version 6 Proceeding, 1401 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20230. Interested parties should submit an original and five copies and, when possible, include a diskette or compact disk in ASCII, WordPerfect or Microsoft Word format. Diskettes or compact disks should be labeled with the name and organizational affiliation of the filer, and the name and version of the word processing program used to create the document.

In the alternative to a diskette or compact disk, comments may be submitted electronically to IPv6@ntia.doc.gov. Comments submitted via electronic mail should also be submitted in ASCII, WordPerfect or Microsoft Word formats.

A copy of the notice can be found in the Federal Register.