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Internet address switch frustration

We all have that fear: the Internet connection seems to be working fine, and then nothing works.You get on the phone and call your Internet service provider; they tell you to turn off your computer, router and modem. Then they tell you to wait 30 seconds, and turn them back on in the reverse order. Sometimes this works, sometimes not. If not, they start saying things like, “the BIOS needs to be updated,” or “your firmware is out of date,” or, worst of all, “our equipment is working fine, something is wrong with your... [fill in the name of anything you bought].”You are left miserable, stressed and in a case of slight panic. That’s about to get worse — and expensive.Every computer, every Internet component, has an address. They need addresses so that the packets of information, such as emails and Web requests, know what they are addressed to and how to get there. Your computer has an Internet Protocol (IP) address. When you go onto Google, it notes your IP address and tracks your needs to and from your computer.Years ago, before TCP/IP, when you sent an email on Science Net in the late 1980s, everyone hooked up would get a copy of the email. That’s why you had to put the recipient’s actual name at the head so that the other people on Science Net would (politely) discard the message. Then Tim Berners-Lee and Morelli and Vezza came up with the postal system for the World Wide Web, the IP address system, and presto — up to four billion people, machines, routers, modems, servers and a whole host of new smartphones could talk with one another privately.Did you catch that bit about four billion users? Well, we’re using IP version 4 and the system is out of addresses. We need a new, updated address system. Similar to when zip codes were added to the mail system in the 1960s, you will need to be prepared or your mail will not get through.What do you have to do? Get ready to start tugging at your hair.For starters, older computers not operating the latest system software (Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Mac OS X Lion) will need to be upgraded. Some older computers may only need a new LAN card (about $250 for the new IPv6). That modem or router you are using may be old and need to be replaced. It may be new and have the capability of running IPv6, providing you download the firmware to unlock the IPv6 portions of its internal chip. Good luck with that.And let’s not forget that the modem/router manufacturers will jump on the cash cow bandwagon, selling “upgraded” products that costs three times as much. The need for a new IPv6-ready capability goes for your Wi-Fi setup and computer as well. It hasn’t been determined if all smartphones will also need to be upgraded or changed.Weren’t ready to fork out for new equipment? You will not be able to access the Internet shortly. How soon? That depends on your service provider.Comcast (the nation’s largest) is already changing to IPv6 community by community, and is targeting nationwide by the end of 2012. Verizon, Warner, RCC and others are following suit. Sorry, but you had better start planning for this eventuality now. Like the emergency responder GPS readdressing of every home in the 1990s, which cost millions of wasted dollars in each county across America, in the midst of this economic crisis you will be asked to swap a perfectly good pile of equipment for new, more expensive stuff which will do the same thing. Why? Because it is simpler for you to change your equipment at your cost to make more addresses available than for the IP operators to spend money and manage the routing of the current addresses you already have.Oh, and Congress approved this boondoggle as well. If all this equipment was made in America... but of course not. Peter Riva, formerly of Amenia Union, lives in New Mexico.

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