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Is Your Internet Service Provider Ready for IPv6?

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As you might have read (if you've visited WhatIsMyIPAddress.com before), the IP address "look" and format that has been in usage for a few decades is going to be replaced by a new format called IPv6 (for "version 6"). The transition is going to be huge...when and however that happens.

It all stems from the Internet world (yes, the global Internet) running out of the old version of IP address, known as IPv4. That's the version you're used to seeing when you visit the WhatIsMyIPAddress.com website. (Go there right now to see the current IP address you're using. Mostly likely it is still IPv4.)

The IPv4 format that was created more than 25 years ago and made way for about four billion IP address combinations just wasn't enough.

At the time, no one could anticipate the future need for more IP addresses than that. But over the past several years, Internet engineers realized that four billion IP addresses wasn't going to be enough. In fact, as of the end of summer 2015, there likely aren't going to be any new (unallocated) IPv4 addresses available.

But for most people, the better question is this: How far along is your Internet Service Provider (ISP) when it comes to offering or delivering IPv6 connectivity to you and other customers?

The ISPs are getting there.

You would think, and you would hope, that our Internet Service Providers would have taken care of all of this way ahead of time. And they have...sort of. However, most of them are NOT yet providing IPv6 addresses to their new customers, nor are they transitioning old customers to the new IP address.

In fact, much of what they're saying is still rather vague, as if they are trying to figure out for themselves what's going to happen.

ISP IPv6 overview.

As expected, the ISPs are no longer receiving new allotments or allocations of public IPv4 addresses from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). Some have managed to continue to provide new IPv4 addresses by reallocating some of the addresses they had been assigned in the past but perhaps had never passed on to customers. This buys them a little more time while they scramble to roll out and support IPv6 addresses.

All Internet Service Providers are faced with providing a migration path from IPv4 to IPv6 for all of their customers and by now they are all working to ensure that the impact to their customers will be minimal.

Their plan for IPv6 transitioning.

One strategy for transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6 is known as the "dual-stack" method. This would allow IPv4 and IPv6 computers to communication with each other. In a dual-stack IP environment, every networking device—computer, server, switch, router and firewall—will be configured with both an IPv4 and IPv6 address. This should allow the ISP to process either IPv4 or IPv6 traffic at the same time.

Most ISPs are saying that their customers will not be impacted by IPv4 address depletion "in the near term," which makes it sound as if they might be affected somehow and in some way sooner or later. Indeed, for some select customers, they advise that if you need to implement IPv6 in the near future, you should contact your ISP representative right away. (Do people even know they have an ISP representative?)

Say that again?

But when it comes to providing direct, reassuring answers ahead of the transition, many ISPs stumble. For instance, here's how one ISP answered the simple customer question, "What do I need to do in order to (use) IPv6?"

"IPv6 is not supported on all customer equipment, so in order to receive IPv6 addressing and communicate with other IPv6 devices on the Internet, the following are needed: a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, Wi-Fi modem, or Wi-Fi Internet and telephone modem. See our Approved Cable Modems for a list of all our network-approved modems. Note: If using a standalone router, it must be IPv6-capable. Contact the manufacturer to ensure compatibility."

Maybe that's why they're mostly vague when it comes to explaining the situation. However, when the time comes and your ISP is IPv6-ready, you'll likely need to be ready on your end as well. Chances are you'll need an IPv6-compatible operating system, a router with IPv6 support, and (most importantly) an ISP connection that is IPv6-enabled.

But don't worry about that just yet. If your ISP is still figuring it all out for you, you probably still have plenty of time too.

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