For 15 years, the AFRINIC PDP has been developing the policies by which the Internet Number Resources in the AFRINIC service region are managed. AFRINIC is focused on encouraging a diversity of voices in this process.
For more than twenty years, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) system has served as a successful model for the coordination and administration of Internet number resources. It has proven that community-based policy development can be coordinated in a transparent, open manner and can be responsive to the requirements of the entire Internet multi-stakeholder community. As the Internet has evolved to become a central feature of modern society, the Policy Development Process (PDP) used by the RIRs has kept pace with the growing challenges. These include the challenges of IPv4 address space exhaustion and the transition to IPv6.
2. RIR system and PDP
One of the strengths of the PDP used by the RIR system is that it answers the specific needs of each RIR community over time. This allows for an ongoing evolution whereby the policies by which IP addresses are managed are regularly reviewed and continually refined. As self-regulatory organisations, based on open membership structures, the RIRs are entirely subject to the specific needs and directions of their specific communities. This means that the technical communities responsible for the management and operation of local networks are responsible for defining the policies for managing the Internet number resources in their region.
3. The AFRINIC PDP
AFRINIC received its formal accreditation from ICANN in 2005 to become the RIR serving Africa and the Indian Ocean. Before that, different countries in the region were served by the RIPE NCC, the RIR for Europe and the Middle East; ARIN, the RIR for North America; and APNIC, the RIR for the Asia-Pacific region. This meant that the Internet number resources for African networks were allocated from outside the region and that the policy defining how to manage these resources was developed outside of Africa.
After almost a decade of preparatory work to lay the foundations, the emergence of AFRINIC in 2005 was a landmark moment. It meant that Africa was finally able to unite behind an organisation serving its specific needs and supporting the development of its own policies.
Since that historical moment, the AFRINIC community has been responsible for proposing, discussing, reviewing and finding consensus on the policies that directly determine the rules by which AFRINIC manages and administers Internet number resources. But how does this work in practice, what are the current issues under discussion and what’s next for policy development in the region?
3.2 PDP principles
The three principles of the PDP in the AFRINIC service region are openness, transparency and fairness. It is designed so that anyone interested in Internet number resource policy can participate. Anyone can propose a new policy or an amendment to a current policy. They do not have to be a member of AFRINIC or any other body and may be based anywhere in the world. Once a policy proposal is submitted, anyone can submit comments, provide support or object to the proposal. Open mailing lists and public meetings are used to discuss policy, identify issues and find consensus.
3.3 PDP Roles and responsibilities
The PDWG is responsible for developing new policy proposals, discussing and suggesting revisions, and deciding if consensus has been reached. The working group is open to participation by anyone. Its mailing lists are open and publicly archived as are the minutes from all its policy meetings. The PDWG is also responsible for electing the PDWG Co-chairs for two-year terms.
3.3.2 The PDWG Co-chairs
The PDWG Co-chairs are a voluntary position supporting the working group in keeping the PDP on schedule and finding consensus. Once the PDWG has reached a consensus, the Co-chairs are responsible for recommending the draft policy to the AFRINIC Board of Directors for ratification.
3.3.3 AFRINIC Board of Directors
The AFRINIC Board of Directors is responsible for ratifying policies following PDWG consensus. The Board of Directors is elected for fixed terms by the AFRINIC members.
3.3.4 AFRINIC staff
The AFRINIC staff provide administrative support and assist policy authors with editorial support if requested. They also provide relevant facts and statistics if requested during the discussion. Once a proposal has been ratified by the AFRINIC Board, the AFRINIC staff are responsible for implementing the policy and for reporting on any impacts caused by the new policy that should be considered in future policy refinement. This reporting has been formalised in the Policy Implementation Experience Report (PIER).
3.3.5 AFRINIC Resource Members
Implemented policies have a direct impact on AFRINIC Resource Members as these policies govern how Internet Number Resources in the AFRINIC service region are managed and administered. Resource Members have an important role to play in the PDP to ensure that the policies developed to meet their changing needs. Together with AFRINIC Associate Members, Resource Members are an essential part of the multi-stakeholder community involved in the PDP.
4. Policy Implementation Experience Report (PIER)
The purpose of the PIER is to provide feedback to the members and community regarding recently ratified policies and their implementation. This includes experiences faced by AFRINIC hostmasters while handling requests governed by currently implemented policies, and sections of the CPM that need clarity.
4.1 How the PIER supports policy refinement: a case study of ASN policy
In the Policy Implementation Experience Report 2015, AFRINIC noted that the policy for assigning Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) was causing problems for many AFRINIC members. The problem related to a multihoming requirement in the policy specifying that an ASN could only be assigned to a member if they were already, or planning to be, multihomed (e.g. connected to multiple BGP peers). Given that an ASN is usually a prerequisite for BGP peering (either directly or through an Internet Exchange Point), this requirement was causing many problems. A policy author considered this problem statement and proposed a policy to amend the requirements for assigning an ASN. The policy proposal reached consensus in 2019 and was implemented in May 2020 making it much easier for AFRINIC members to request an ASN and begin BGP peering.
5. How IPv4 policy evolved to deal with IPv4 exhaustion
The central pool of available IPv4 addresses managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) was depleted on 3 February 2011, when each RIR received one final /8 allocation of IPv4 address space (equal to 16.8 million addresses). This was not a surprise to the technical community and had been something that had long been planned for. Indeed, AFRINIC had been supporting the community with IPv6 information, training and allocations since it began operations in 2005. By 2007, the first article on impending IPv4 exhaustion and its effect on the AFRINIC region was published.
In January 2009, with the exhaustion of IANA’s central pool of IPv4 addresses two years away, an IPv4 policy was proposed in the AFRINIC service region. The policy, known as IPv4 soft landing, proposed a strategy for the allocation and maintenance of AFRINIC’s final /8 block of IPv4 from IANA. It was designed to support the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 in the AFRINIC service region. The idea was to support new networks and to give existing networks more time to make the transition.
As one would expect, there was much discussion about this important policy on the RPD mailing list. After more than two years of discussion, and many updates to the proposal text based on community input and implementation analysis from AFRINIC staff, the policy finally reached consensus in November 2011. The PDP enabled the community to define exactly how the last /8 allocated to AFRINIC from the IANA would be managed and administered to best serve the needs of the entire AFRINIC Internet community.
6. Policy today: how to get involved
At the upcoming African Internet Summit 2020 (AIS 20), a number of policy proposals will be discussed. These include:
- a proposal to modify the PDP itself
- a proposal on the responsibility of the AFRINIC Board regarding appeal processes and the PDP
- a proposal on the election process for PDWG Co-chairs
- a proposal on the PDWG guidelines and procedures
- a proposal to ensure the correct abuse contact information is available in the AFRINIC WHOIS Database
- A proposal to ensure that AFRINIC creates AS0 ROAs for its unallocated and unassigned resources
- A proposal covering a Policy Compliance dashboard that allows the review and communication of policy compliance for the members.
- 3 policy proposals for the transfer of Internet Number Resources within the AFRINIC service region and between the AFRINIC service region and the service regions of the other RIRs.
To get involved, you can participate in the AIS'20 if already registered or join the RPD mailing list. For those not already registered for the AIS 20, you can follow the live stream at https://2020.internetsummit.africa/en/
7. The PDP in the future: facing the challenges of tomorrow
For 15 years, the AFRINIC PDP has been developing the policies by which the Internet Number Resources in the AFRINIC service region are managed. AFRINIC is focused on encouraging a diversity of voices in this process. We continue to work together with the public sector reaching out to governments and regulators through the AFRINIC Government Working Group to ensure they are involved in the multi-stakeholder processes that shape the Internet in our region.
We also reach out to the community via presentations in various technical fora, at training courses and through newcomers’ meetings and fellowship programs. Our aim is to help foster an inclusive environment in which voices from all sectors and geographies can participate in the PDP. An important part of this is a clear Code of Conduct which ensures anyone, no matter how experienced, can feel safe in contributing to the discussion and making the case for their opinions.
We hope that as many new voices as possible will join the AFRINIC policy discussions. Working together, with a spirit of professionalism and mutual respect, we can benefit from a vast range of experience to make a more secure, accessible Internet in Africa for everyone.
Senior IP Resources Specialist