When we last wrote about the impending shortage of Internet Protocol Addresses, we compared it to the predicted shortage of oil – something that would probably have to be dealt with a little bit down the road, not necessarily right away. Well, that was in July 2008, and now we've learned of a real-world instance of a provider taking concrete steps to deal with the shortage by getting started on its transition to the IPv6 protocol. The "next generation" Internet protocol allows for more individual IP addresses than there are stars in the sky. That ought to be enough to last a few years.

As reported on the ArsTechnica tech policy blog, Comcast is encouraging subscribers to volunteer to enroll in its upcoming trials of the IPv6 protocol. Comcast is notable for its participation in the development of the new protocol. Comcast is a huge user of IP addresses, for its numerous TV, Internet and digital voice subscribers, and according to ArsTechnica, is already experiencing difficulties in obtaining a sufficient number of IP addresses for all its needs.

There's further information on the Comcast blog and in a set of FAQs on the Comcast site.

This is a development that should be closely watched by technical folk at all levels, as well as attorneys who may encounter IP protocol tansition issues concerning in their practice. Playing catchup on the transition to IPv6 may be difficult if the impending shortage becomes a real one in as short a time frame as some think