Congress To Study Slow Pace Of Migration To IPv6

IP of Web addresses

To get to the bottom of the matter, government and private sector specialists are testifying at Congressional hearings in Washington Wednesday.

The subject of the hearings says it all: "Is the Federal Government Doing Enough? Will Other Nations Surpass the U.S?" Congressman Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the Committee on Government Reform, is presiding.

Although speakers from the industry, including Microsoft, are scheduled to speak, Robert White, a spokesman for the committee, said the emphasis will be on determining what can be done to assist governmental agencies in moving from IPv4 to the new version. A recent GAO report provides a roadmap to the upgrade, he added.

The GAO report, issued last month, noted that the Department of Defense is already well on its way to upgrading, but that remaining federal agencies are lagging behind. "DoD," the GAO report stated, "has made progress in developing a business case, policies, timelines, and processes for transitioning to IPv6."

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The DOD is traditionally in the vanguard of advancements in technology within the government sector.

The committee, according to spokesman White, will examine U.S. private sector initiatives as well as initiatives being made by foreign nations to move to IPv6. In informal meetings in the Washington area held after the unveiling of the GAO report, several participants said foreign nations have moved more aggressively than the U.S. to embrace the new upgrade.

Many critics in Washington fear foreign nations are moving ahead more aggressively with leading edge technologies than the U.S.

Actually, the wholesale move to the new version is already underway but because the transition technology is seamless, most users don't realize the move has begun. Most computers are compatible with IPv6, but many ISPs will have to install hardware and software for the upgrade, according to some Web experts.

The chief reason for the upgrade is to dramatically broaden the number of Web addresses to include not only the expected number of mobile connections, but also to prepare for a multiplicity of sensors that will likely be linked to the Internet in the future. The 4.3 billion Web addresses currently available on IPv4 pales compared with the number to be accommodated by the upgrade: 3.4 x 10 to the power of 38 -- virtually limitless.

The upgrade also promises better security, however, the move to IPv6 brings with it a number of wireless connection issues to be resolved.

The Congressional Committee has indicated security concerns will be reviewed. "If agencies do not seek to understand the potential scope and complexities of IPv6 issues, they will face increased costs and security risks," the committee stated. "If not managed, existing IPv6 features in agency networks can be exploited by unauthorized individuals who can gain access to federal information and resources undetected."

One scheduled hearing speaker, John Curran of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, is expected to discuss Web addresses.

Jawad Khaki, a Microsoft corporate vice president, is also slated to testify.

Representatives from federal agencies scheduled to testify at the hearings include George Wauer of the Department of Defense and Karen Evans from the Office of Management and Budget.