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Bankrupt Borders flogs 65,536 IP addresses at $12 a pop

Scarce network numbers offloaded to healthcare biz

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The bankrupt bookseller Borders wants to sell its stash of 65,536 IP addresses to healthcare software vendor Cerner for $12 per address.

The bust high street chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, and has been selling off its assets to pay its creditors ever since. The address sale is one of its last assets to be disposed of.

Cerner has agreed to pay $786,432 for the rights to a /16 block of IPv4 addresses, or $12 per address, according to a New York bankruptcy court filing. It's believed to be only the second time ever a batch of IP addresses has been sold in this way, and sets a new high in terms of price.

The software biz was the highest bidder among thousands to be contacted by the asset broker StreamBank, including ISPs, domain registries and other potential buyers, according to the filing. The lowest bid was $1.50 per address, the filing states.

IPv4 addresses are a rapidly dwindling commodity and some believe the period while the internet transitions to IPv6, with all the cost and complexity that entails, is creating a secondary market for legacy address delegations.

ICANN distributed the last big chunks of available IPv4 addresses to the five continental Regional Internet Registries earlier this year. The RIRs in turn are running out of supplies to allocate to ISPs and other network operators.

The Borders deal is believed to be the second publicly announced IPv4 sale, following Nortel's sale of $7.5m worth of addresses to Microsoft in March this year.

Such transfers are controversial, due to the fact that IP addresses, unlike domain names, are not generally considered property that can be traded on the secondary market.

Following the Nortel-Microsoft deal, ARIN, the regional IP address registry for North America, entered into an after-the-fact contract with Microsoft, tacitly acknowledging the sale.

A website launched in April hopes to allow companies to trade IPv4 addresses on the open market.

Borders' bankruptcy filing states that the purchase agreement with Cerner is subject to "consent by ARIN", explaining: "This will likely entail ARIN’s approval of Cerner based on a reasonable demonstration of a need for the addresses."

"While the debtors believe that this court has the authority to authorize the sale of the internet addresses over any such objection by ARIN, the [internet address] sale contains a condition of ARIN’s consent and the proposed order incorporates various protections of ARIN’s rights, which moots any need to consider any of these issues," the filing states.

The bankruptcy court has set a hearing date of 20 December to approve the sale. ®

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