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IP protocols/software

Dumbing Down IPv6

11:25 AM -- My gold standard for news coverage is National Public Radio (NPR), because I find its reporters break down difficult topics in ways that enable me to understand them.

So when the final blocks of IPv4 numbers were handed out last February, and the transition to IPv6 became serious enough to make the national news, I was surprised to hear NPR report on the event without ever using the terms "IPv4" or "IPv6." (See Ready to Join the IPv4 Cops? and IPv4: DON'T PANIC!!!.)

In retrospect, that just shows how deeply into telecom tech quagmire I've sunk.

Clearly the editors at NPR didn't think the majority of its listeners had any idea what those terms meant or any need to have them explained.

But as I've been hearing more and more, including recently from CableLabs' Chris Donley, consumers will no longer have the luxury of remaining ignorant about what IPv6 is, at least when it comes to buying devices they hope to connect to the Internet. (See CableLabs' Donley: Should Consumers Learn IPv6?.)

So where is this education going to come from? It's already happening at the retail level, according to Steven Bosch, strategy executive with Best Buy. At The Cable Show in June, he said his company's sales force is already having to help consumers understand things like the IPv6 Ready logo, which already appears on many products certified by the IPv6 Ready Logo Committee, set up by the IPv6 Forum .

The reality, however, is that while early adopters might get their info from the big box guys, mainstream America probably won't. And when a consumer buys an IPv6 device and has it set to work with IPv6, even though the cable modem or DSL connection is IPv4, things aren't going to work. And the first call is likely to be to the broadband service provider, not the device manufacturer.

This problem will only get thornier, as Donley points out, when there is more content out there on IPv6 and more devices connecting that way, and the user experience will be affected by improper connections -- the service may work but the video or other content won't look as good as it should.

Is the industry ready to explain all this to consumers in some fashion they might actually understand? NPR wasn't. And those guys are usually good at explaining things.

What do you think?

For more on IPv6, read:

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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