The U.K. government's department responsible for employment and social security checks has stashed away in its back pocket more than 16 million old IPv4 addresses, which could be worth as much as $1.5 billion (£924 million).
An e-petition has been set up on the U.K. government's website to push the Department of Work and Pensions into selling the chunk of, what are commonly referred to as "/8" addresses, which would plug a sizeable hole in the country's deficit.
First written about by programmer and author John Graham-Cumming, he explains that the 188.8.131.52--184.108.40.206 block is "completely unused." He says that a quick check shows that there are "no networks for that block of addresses," just as it happens "when IPv4 is running out there's a huge block sitting unused."
IDG-owned Network World believes that an entire "/8" block of addresses could be pegged at between $500 million and $1.5 billion on the IPv4 resale market.
"The world has run out of IPv4 addresses, making connection of new people and computers to the Internet a chore - and making existing addresses extremely valuable," the e-petition author Jo Shields writes.
"Analysis shows that the DWP is not using any of these addresses in public. If they are being used for internal, private networks then this is a phenomenal waste of public funds - the block 10.0.0.0/8 is specifically earmarked for use on internal private networks, and using the globally routed 220.127.116.11/8 internally is madness."
Only this week, ZDNet's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols noted that businesses in Europe particularly are struggling, as the Regional Internet Registry for the European and Middle-Eastern market is "down to its last IPv4 block."
If an e-petition reaches the 100,000 signature mark, it will be eligible for a debate in the U.K. House of Commons, and could be enacted into law.
It's currently in the low-hundreds, so we'll keep an eye out and see where it goes.