AMPRNet

Nearly forty years ago, Hank Magnuski, KA6M, and other visionary
hams saw the future possibilities of the coming Internet and,
realizing the potential of TCP/IP for amateur radio, obtained an
address allocation from Dr. Jon Postel, who at that time was the
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

That allocation was the address space comprising some sixteen million
individual IPv4 addresses, 44.0.0.0 through 44.255.255.255,
conventionally written as 44.0.0.0/8, which was given the name
AMPRNet.

The ownership and management of those addresses was passed to an
informal group of hams, including Phil Karn KA9Q, Wally Lindstruth
WA6JPR [RIP], and lastly, around 1985, Brian Kantor, WB6CYT.

In 2011, at the urging of the American Registry for Internet Numbers
(ARIN) and others, we got together a group of highly-qualified
individuals to form a board of directors and incorporated our
informal group, which had come to be known as “Amateur Radio Digital
Communications”, as a non-profit public benefit corporation. ARDC,
as we call it, is recognized by IANA, ARIN, and the other Internet
Registries as the sole owner of the AMPRNet.

ARDC is qualified under US Internal Revenue Service rules as a
nonprofit tax exempt public benefit corporation under section
501(c)(3) of their rules. Relevant corporate documents may be found
on our web site, www.ampr.org

In the 30+ years we’ve had this allocation, thousands of hams have
taken advantage of our policy of assigning applicants single or
small blocks of addresses on a long-term loan (essentially a zero-cost
lease) so that they may experiment with all the aspects of
Internet-related Amateur Radio digital communications, ranging from
simple TCP/IP connectivity, through radio and wireless techniques,
digital voice, telemetry, repeater linking, and related endeavours.
Some very interesting and worthwhile research and practical
applications have been carried out by hams using these network
address resources.

Yet in all this time, the Amateur Radio community has never used
much more than half the available addresses, even at the peak of
interest around 1988-1995. These days, less than one third of the
address space is assigned and in use. Large chunks of it have
almost never been used.

Meanwhile, beginning around 2011, the publicly available pool of
Internet addresses began to contract rapidly and the resulting
scarcity of address space led to the birth of a market for Internet
addresses. The first large sale of such addresses was a part of a
reorganization of assets with a transfer of a large block of addresses
moving from Nortel Communications to Microsoft Corp for a substantial
sum of money. Market observers have noted that the value of address
blocks has been steadily increasing ever since, and some feel that
trend might continue for a while longer.

Thus the AMPRNet currently has a large monetary worth that has been
and may continue to increase until and unless IPv6 is widely adopted,
at which point AMPRNet will gradually become of comparatively low
value. We believe that in this respect, it is a time-limited asset.

The mission of ARDC is to support research, development, innovation
and operational readiness of communications techniques, with a
strong emphasis on Amateur Radio. We, the Board of Directors, along
with several key individuals who are our advisers, believe that we
should continue to furnish addresses to hams who want them to
experiment with or to use for Amateur Radio purposes. But we believe
that a large amount of our address space will never need to be used
in this way, and we wanted to find a way that those addresses could
be useful to the amateur digital communications community in other
ways.

After many months of consideration and discussion, we have decided
that the best use of this unused block of addresses is to fund the
operation of our non-profit corporation, establishing a program
that will give grants and scholarships in support of communications
and networking research, again, with a strong emphasis on Amateur
Radio. It was our unanimous decision to place one quarter of the
AMPRNet address space on the market and to prudently invest the
proceeds of that sale in what we hope will be a perpetual endowment
from which each year we will award grants and scholarships to
qualified recipients who will use the funds to advance the state
of the communications arts.

Specifically, in mid-2019, a block of approximately four million
consecutive AMPRNet addresses denoted as 44.192.0.0/10 was withdrawn
from our reserve for Amateur use, and sold to the highest qualified
bidder at the then current fair market value. This leaves some
twelve million addresses devoted exclusively to Amateur Radio uses,
which is far greater than the number of addresses which are currently
or have ever been in use. We believe this is far more than the
number of addresses that will ever be needed by hams before IPv6
takes over the Internet. We also believe that was the prudent and
proper time for this sale to take place, for a number of good
reasons, among which are a recent levelling off in address prices
and a lessening demand as only a few large buyers are left in the
market for such a large block of addresses.

It is our intention to grant funds across all reaches of the
educational, research, and development spectrum, with awards being
made to support qualified organizations whose programs could well
serve to advance the art of digital communication, with special
emphasis on that which would benefit Amateur Radio.

Additionally, another way we will be able to help our community is
to contract with research firms and consultants to carry out related
research and development to produce procedures, techniques, methods,
designs, and intellectual property that would then be made freely
available for the benefit of all.

The ARDC Board of Directors

  • Brian Kantor, WB6CYT
  • Phil Karn, KA9Q
  • K. C. Claffy, KC6KCC
  • John Gilmore, W0GNU

And a few of our supporting advisors

  • Hank Magnuski, KA6M
  • Bdale Garbee, KB0G
  • Skip Hansen, WB6YMH
  • Bill Horne, W4EWH
  • John Ricketts, KI5D
  • Jann Traschewski, DG8NGN
  • Paul Vixie, KI6YSY

Frequent Questions

How much netspace did you sell?

About four million contiguous addresses. 44.192.0.0/10.

Why did you sell?

We weren’t ever going to use those addresses, and in today’s marketplace,
they could bring in some badly-needed funds.

How much money did you get for them?

Several million dollars. We agreed to keep the exact
amount quiet for some months to avoid adversely influencing
others buying and selling addresses.

Who bought them?

A very big company with a significant internet presence.

What are you going to do with the money?

Our plan is to establish a program of grants and scholarships that
will serve to promote the art and science of digital communications
including Amateur Radio.

How do *I* get some of that money?

We’re still establishing guidelines and procedures for awarding grants
and scholarships. Because of IRS regulations, initially we’ll only be
able to give money to registered 501(c)(3) tax exempt public benefit
groups, but later when we’ve got more people to handle the immense amount
of official paperwork required, we might be able to fund others as well.

What about the hams? Aren’t they going to need those addresses someday?

Extremely doubtful. The hams still have over 12 million addresses and are
using far fewer than half of those.

The four million we sold haven’t been needed in the last thirty-plus years.
The growth trend of the internet shows that IPv6 is clearly the future, so
in some number of years those IPv4 addresses would not only decline in value, but
no longer be needed. They are definitely a time-limited asset.

Who decided to sell these? I didn’t get to vote on it.

Amateur Radio Digital Communications is the owner of the original AMPRNet
address space, and the Board of Directors (nearly all hams) made the
unanimous decision, after discussing it for more than a year,
that the benefit to ham radio and society in general would be
greater by selling some addresses and using the funds to finance
research and development than just hanging on to unused addresses
would have been.

Who are some of the recipients of your grants?

As of July 1, 2019, no one. We’re just getting started.

Who is going to decide who gets grants?

Initially, the ARDC Board of Directors, and we’re forming a
committee to screen future candidate organizations.

There are a whole bunch of IRS and other regulations that we
have to obey in doing this; we’re sort of feeling our way now
and we’re consulting legal counsel all along the way. We want
to be fair about it as much as we can, but in evaluating proposals
for future work, there will always be elements of hope and guesswork.

To be continued…