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A regional Internet registry is a not-for-profit organization charged with the allocation, management, maintenance and recording information such as Internet addresses within a specific area. Each regional Internet registry oversees activities within its designated international region. Together, these regional Internet registries make up the Number Resource Organization (NRO).
Every device connected to the Internet is allocated its own unique identification number called an Internet protocol (IP) address. With the rapid growth of the Internet in the 1990s, it became apparent that the system would require management. The volume of demand around the world made a single centralize system impractical, and regional registries were established though the 1990s and early 2000s, with the fifth regional Internet registry established in 2005.
As of 2010, five regional Internet registries operated independently in the management of domains, IP addresses and autonomous system (AS) numbers. These organizations were the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC), Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), Reseaux IP Europeens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) and African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC). For global policy issues, they work together under the NRO.
Canada and the United States are managed by ARIN. South America, Central America and Mexico fall under LACNIC. Caribbean nations are divided between the two regional Internet registries.
RIPE NCC oversees Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. APNIC is responsible for the rest of Asia as well as Australia and the Pacific Rim. AfriNIC was the fifth regional Internet registry to be added, and it manages Internet information in Africa.
Numbers for IP addresses are initially generated by an organization called the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The IANA allocates these numbers to the registries for distribution. Each regional Internet registry then allocates these numbers as required to end-users such as government bodies, educational institutions, Internet service providers and private enterprises.
Policy decisions made by each regional Internet registry helps keep the Internet running smoothly. Controlled registration prevents the stockpiling and hoarding of the finite number of IP addresses and AS numbers available. Efficient routing also depends on the registries, and without their maintenance, the Internet would become unwieldy and less stable. System troubleshooting would be exceptionally difficult without unique identification numbers to track down errors and problems.
Methods of achieving these goals vary between agencies. Each regional Internet registry operates independently and is able to consider demands and resources unique to that region. All registries employ transparent decision-making policies and encourage self-regulation within the region and within the information industry.