What is an RIR?
A Regional Internet Registry (RIR) is a governing body that is responsible for the administration of Internet addresses in a specific geographic region. Typically, an RIR has a mandate to control the allocation and distribution of IP addresses and domain registrations. The control and delegation of Internet addresses rose in prominence with the growth of Internet Protocol (IP) networks and the popularity of IP addressing and routing that is the cornerstone of the Internet.
The architecture of the modern Internet requires each Internet aware device to have a unique IP address. The lack of an unlimited supply of IP addresses emphasizes the need for proper management of the current inventory of addresses to ensure a fair global distribution of Internet resources. RIRs must maintain a neutral policy of address allocation and distribution to prevent address hoarding and other potentially limiting practices.
Globally, there are 5 RIRs that administer Internet addressing. All five RIRs combined to form the Number Resource Organization (NRO). The NRO was created as a way to coordinate technical and policy initiatives between the RIRs and to coordinate global activities. In January 2007, the NRO published a comparative policy overview of the RIRs intended as a public reference document intended for the Internet community.
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) allocates addresses to each RIR. The RIR is responsible for the next level of allocation to large regional entities including Internet Service Providers (ISPs), educational institutions, government bodies, and large private enterprises.
American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN)
The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) is an RIR responsible for the administration of Internet addresses and domains for North America including Canada, the United States, and portions of the Caribbean. Established in 1997, ARIN was the result of the American government's decision to separate support for the commercial Internet from the United States Department of Defense (DoD). The original transfer of responsibilities occurred in 1991 when the government awarded a private contractor, Network Solutions, a contract to perform Internet addressing and registration services including domain registration, addressing, user registration and support, and support for the distribution and archival of RFC documentation.
Reseaux IP Europeens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC)
The Reseaux IP Europeens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) is an RIR responsible for administration of Internet addresses and domains for Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands, RIPE NCC was established in 1992 with arms-length funding from European consortium of research networks and a group of smaller, commercial network companies. RIPE NCC is a membership based organization responsible for coordinating and governing the activities of the RIPE community. RIPE NCC was considered the first RIR as the United States government was still actively involved with managing Internet addressing for much of North America at that time.
Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC)
The Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre is an RIR responsible for the administration of Internet addresses and domains for Asia and the Pacific Rim. Founded in Tokyo, Japan, APNIC was the second RIR to be established. In 1993, APNIC became active and was originally designed as a trial to meet the addressing needs of regional network infrastructures at the time. APNIC relocated to Brisbane, Australia in 1998.
Latin American and Caribbean Internet Address Registry (LACNIC)
Established in 2001, the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Address Registry (LACNIC) is an RIR responsible for the administration of Internet addresses and domains for Latin America and the Caribbean. Headquartered in Montevideo, Uruguay, LACNIC is a non-profit organization responsible for regional Internet address and domain registrations and is active in promoting Internet expansion initiatives within the region.
African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC)
The African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC) is responsible for the administration of Internet addresses and domains for African continent. Based in Ebene City, Mauritius, AfriNIC became operational in 2005. Prior to the establishment of AfriNIC, IP address distribution for Africa was managed jointly by APNIC, ARIN, and RIPE NCC. Like the other RIRs, AfriNIC is a membership based non-profit organization that relies on a system of self-governance from it's membership.
The RIRs do not charge for resources since IP's are assigned, not sold. Instead, the RIRs accept member that pay an annual fee proportional to the workload involved in servicing their requests and as an example in the case of ARIN, the annual membership fee is currently $500US and the service charges for allocating IP addresses currently range from $1,250-$18,000US with the amount being dependent on the amount of addresses being assigned and the workload involved. Generally large organizations such as Universities, banks and ISP's are members of their local RIR, as are anyone else requiring blocks of IP's such as hosting providers and data center operators, to name a few.
To obtain an allocation, members will generally fill in a form detailing their requirements, what routing and switching hardware they have to service the allocation and what justification they have for their request i.e. an ISP will have a clear justification to request a block of 4,000 IP addresses but an individual will have difficulty justifying a need for this space.