"AS numbers are a vital part of the Internet's core routing
system, the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). With existing two-byte
AS numbers predicted to run out in early 2011, RIRs will issue
four-byte AS numbers by default (unless otherwise specifically
requested) beginning 1 January 2009, as the next phase of a
transition from two- to four-byte numbers. Following a globally
coordinated policy, RIRs began allocating four-byte AS numbers by
request only in January 2007; January 2009 marks the transition to
allocating four-byte AS numbers by default."
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