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Cisco CCENT/CCNA ICND1 100-101 Cert Guide: Fundamentals of IP Version 6

In preparation for taking the CCNA or CCENT exams, this chapter focuses on the core network layer functions of addressing and routing. The first section of this chapter looks at the big concepts, while the second section looks at the specifics of how to write and type IPv6 addresses.
This chapter is from the book

IPv4 has been a solid and highly useful part of the growth of TCP/IP and the Internet. For most of the long history of the Internet, and for most corporate networks that use TCP/IP, IPv4 is the core protocol that defines addressing and routing. However, even though IPv4 has many great qualities, it does have some shortcomings, creating the need for a replacement protocol: IP version 6 (IPv6).

IPv6 defines the same general functions as IPv4, but with different methods of implementing those functions. For example, both IPv4 and IPv6 define addressing, the concepts of subnetting larger groups of addresses into smaller groups, headers used to create an IPv4 or IPv6 packet, and the rules for routing those packets. At the same time, IPv6 handles the details differently, for example, using a 128-bit IPv6 address rather than the 32-bit IPv4 address.

This chapter focuses on the core network layer functions of addressing and routing. The first section of this chapter looks at the big concepts, while the second section looks at the specifics of how to write and type IPv6 addresses.

Foundation Topics

Introduction to IPv6

IP version 6 (IPv6) serves as the replacement protocol for IP version 4 (IPv4).

Unfortunately, that one bold statement creates more questions than it answers. Why does IPv4 need to be replaced? If IPv4 needs to be replaced, when will that happen—and will it happen quickly? What exactly happens when a company or the Internet replaces IPv4 with IPv6? And the list goes on.

While this introductory chapter cannot get into every detail of why IPv4 needs to eventually be replaced by IPv6, the clearest and most obvious reason for migrating TCP/IP networks to use IPv6 is growth. IPv4 uses a 32-bit address, which totals to a few billion addresses. Interestingly, that seemingly large number of addresses is too small. IPv6 increases the number of addresses to a 128-bit address. For perspective, IPv6 supplies over 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times as many addresses as IPv4.

The fact that IPv6 uses a different size address field, with some different addressing rules, means that many other protocols and functions change as well. For example, IPv4 routing—in other words, the packet-forwarding process—relies on an understanding of IPv4 addresses. To support IPv6 routing, routers must understanding IPv6 addresses and routing. To dynamically learn routes for IPv6 subnets, routing protocols must support these different IPv6 addressing rules, including rules about how IPv6 creates subnets. As a result, the migration from IPv4 to IPv6 is much more than changing one protocol (IP), but it impacts many protocols.

This first section of the chapter discusses some of the reasons for the change from IPv4 to IPv6, along with the protocols that must change as a result.

The Historical Reasons for IPv6

In the last 40 years, the Internet has gone from its infancy to being a huge influence in the world. It first grew through research at universities, from the ARPANET beginnings of the Internet in the late 1960s into the 1970s. The Internet kept growing fast in the 1980s, with the Internet’s fast growth still primarily driven by research and the universities that joined in that research. By the early 1990s, the Internet began to transform to allow commerce, allowing people to sell services and products over the Internet, which drove yet another steep spike upward in the growth of the Internet. Figure 25-1 shows some of these major milestones.

Figure 25-1

Figure 25-1.Some Major Events in the Growth of the Internet

Note that the figure ends the timeline with an event in which IANA/ICANN, the groups that assign public IPv4 addresses, gave out the last public IPv4 address blocks. IANA/ICANN assigned the final Class A networks to each the Regional Internet Registries (RIR) in February 2011. This event was an important event for the Internet, bringing us closer to the day when a company simply cannot get new IPv4 public address blocks.

In other words, one day, a company could want to connect to the Internet, but it cannot, just because IPv4 has no public addresses left.

Even though the press made a big deal about running out of IPv4 addresses in 2011, those who care about the Internet knew about this potential problem since the late 1980s. The problem, generally called the IPv4 address exhaustion problem, could literally have caused the huge growth of the Internet in the 1990s to have come to a screeching halt! Something had to be done.

The IETF came up with several short-term solutions to make IPv4 last longer, hoping to put off the day when the world ran out of public IPv4 addresses. The two primary short-term solutions were Network Address Translation / Port Address Translation (NAT/PAT) and classless interdomain routing (CIDR). Both worked wonderfully. At the time, the Internet community hoped to extend the life of IPv4 for a few more years. In practice, these tools help extend IPv4’s life another couple of decades, as seen in the timeline of Figure 25-2.

Figure 25-2

Figure 25-2.Timeline for IPv4 Address Exhaustion and Short-/Long-Term Solutions

While the short-term solutions to IPv4 address exhaustion problem gave us all a few more decades to use IPv4, IPv6 gives the world a long-term solution to the problem. IPv6 replaces IPv4 as the core Layer 3 protocol, with a new IPv6 header and new IPv6 addresses. The address size supports a huge number of addresses, solving the address shortage problem for generations (we hope).

The rest of this first section examines IPv6, comparing it to IPv4, focusing on the common features of the two protocols. In particular, this section compares the protocols (including addresses), routing, routing protocols, and miscellaneous other related topics.

The IPv6 Protocols

The primary purpose of the core IPv6 protocol mirrors the same purpose of the IPv4 protocol. That core IPv6 protocol, as defined in RFC 2460, defines a packet concept, addresses for those packets, and the role of hosts and routers. These rules allow the devices to forward packets sourced by hosts, through multiple routers, so that they arrive at the correct destination host. (IPv4 defines those same concepts for IPv4 back in RFC 791.)

However, because IPv6 impacts so many other functions in a TCP/IP network, many more RFCs must define details of IPv6. Some other RFCs define how to migrate from IPv4 to IPv6. Others define new versions of familiar protocols, or replace old protocols with new ones. For example:

  • Older OSPF Version 2 Upgraded to OSPF Version 3: The older OSPF version 2 works for IPv4, but not for IPv6, so a newer version, OSPF version 3, was created to support IPv6.
  • ICMP Upgraded to ICMP Version 6: Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) worked well with IPv4, but needed to be changed to support IPv6. The new name is ICMPv6.
  • ARP Replaced by Neighbor Discovery Protocol: For IPv4, Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) discovers the MAC address used by neighbors. IPv6 replaces ARP with a more general Neighbor Discovery Protocol (NDP).

While the term IPv6, when used broadly, includes many protocols, the one specific protocol called IPv6 defines the new 128-bit IPv6 address. Of course, writing these addresses in binary would be a problem—they probably would not even fit on the width of a piece of paper! IPv6 defines a shorter hexadecimal format, requiring at most 32 hexadecimal digits (one hex digit per 4 bits), with methods to abbreviate the hexadecimal addresses as well.

For example, all of the following are IPv6 addresses, each with 32 or less hex digits.

  • 2345:1111:2222:3333:4444:5555:6666:AAAA
  • 2000:1:2:3:4:5:6:A
  • FE80::1

The upcoming section “IPv6 Addressing Formats and Conventions” discusses the specifics of how to represent IPv6 addresses, including how to legally abbreviate the hex address values.

Like IPv4, IPv6 defines a header, with places to hold both the source and destination address fields. Compared to IPv4, the IPv6 header does make some other changes besides simply making the address fields larger. However, even though the IPv6 header is larger than an IPv4 header, the IPv6 header is actually simpler (on purpose), to reduce the work done each time a router must route an IPv6 packet. Figure 25-3 shows the required 40-byte part of the IPv6 header.

Figure 25-3

Figure 25-3.IPv6 Header

IPv6 Routing

As with many functions of IPv6, IPv6 routing looks just like IPv4 routing from a general perspective, with the differences being clear only once you look at the specifics. Keeping the discussion general for now, IPv6 uses these ideas the same way as IPv4:

  • To be able to build and send IPv6 packets out an interface, end-user devices need an IPv6 address on that interface.
  • End-user hosts need to know the IPv6 address of a default router, to which the host sends IPv6 packets if the host is in a different subnet.
  • IPv6 routers deencapsulate and reencapsulate each IPv6 packet when routing the packet.
  • IPv6 routers make routing decisions by comparing the IPv6 packet’s destination address to the router’s IPv6 routing table; the matched route list directions of where to send the IPv6 packet next.

While the list shows some concepts that should be familiar from IPv4, the next few figures show the concepts with an example. First, Figure 25-4 shows a few settings on a host. The host (PC1) has an address of 2345::1. PC1 also knows its default gateway of 2345::2. (Both values are valid abbreviations for real IPv6 addresses.) To send an IPv6 packet to host PC2, on another IPv6 subnet, PC1 creates an IPv6 packet and sends it to R1, PC1’s default gateway.

Figure 25-4

Figure 25-4.IPv6 Host Building and Sending an IPv6 Packet

The router (R1) has many small tasks to do when forwarding this IPv6 packet, but for now, focus on the work R1 does related to encapsulation. As seen in Step 1 of Figure 25-5, R1 receives the incoming data link frame, and extracts (deencapsulates) the IPv6 packet from inside the frame, discarding the original data link header and trailer. At Step 2, once R1 knows to forward the IPv6 packet to R2, R1 adds a correct outgoing data link header and trailer to the IPv6 packet, encapsulating the IPv6 packet.

Figure 25-5

Figure 25-5.IPv6 Router Performing Routine Encapsulation Tasks When Routing IPv6

When a router like R1 deencapsulates the packet from the data link frame, it must also decide what type of packet sits inside the frame. To do so, the router must look at a protocol type field in the data link header, which identifies the type of packet inside the data link frame. Today, most data link frames carry either an IPv4 packet or an IPv6 packet.

To route an IPv6 packet, a router must use its IPv6 routing table instead of the IPv4 routing table. The router must look at the packet’s destination IPv6 address and compare that address to the router’s current IPv6 routing table. The router uses the forwarding instructions in the matched IPv6 route to forward the IPv6 packet. Figure 25-6 shows the overall process.

Figure 25-6

Figure 25-6.IPv6 Router Performing Routine Encapsulation Tasks When Routing IPv6

Note that again, the process works like IPv4, except that the IPv6 packet lists IPv6 addresses, and the IPv6 routing table lists routing information for IPv6 subnets (called prefixes).

Finally, in most enterprise networks, the routers will route both IPv4 and IPv6 packets at the same time. That is, your company will not decide to adopt IPv6, and then late one weekend night turn off all IPv4 and enable IPv6 on every device. Instead, IPv6 allows for a slow migration, during which some or all routers forward both IPv4 and IPv6 packets. (The migration strategy of running both IPv4 and IPv6 is called dual stack.) All you have to do is configure the router to route IPv6 packets, in addition to the existing configuration for routing IPv4 packets.

IPv6 Routing Protocols

IPv6 routers need to learn routes for all the possible IPv6 prefixes (subnets). Just like with IPv4, IPv6 routers use routing protocols, with familiar names, and generally speaking, with familiar functions.

None of the IPv4 routing protocols could be used to advertise IPv6 routes originally. They all required some kind of update to add messages, protocols, and rules to support IPv6. Over time, Routing Information Protocol (RIP), Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP), and Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) were all updated to support IPv6. Table 25-1 lists the names of these routing protocols, with a few comments.

Table 25-1. IPv6 Routing Protocols

Routing Protocol

Defined By


RIPng (RIP Next Generation)


The “Next Generation” is a reference to a TV series, “Star Trek: the Next Generation.”

OSPFv3 (OSPF version 3)


The OSPF you have worked with for IPv4 is actually OSPF version 2, so the new version for IPv6 is OSPFv3.

EIGRPv6 (EIGRP for IPv6)


Cisco owns the rights to the EIGRP protocol, but Cisco also now publishes EIGRP as an informational RFC.

MP BGP-4 (Multiprotocol BGP version 4)


BGP version 4 was created to be highly extendable; IPv6 support was added to BGP version 4 through one such enhancement, MP BGP-4.

Additionally, these routing protocols also follow the same IGP and EGP conventions as their IPv4 cousins. RIPng, EIGRPv6, and OSPFv3 act as interior gateway protocols, advertising IPv6 routes inside an enterprise.

As you can see from this introduction, IPv6 uses many of the same big ideas as IPv4. Both define headers with a source and destination address. Both define the routing of packets, with the routing process discarding old data link headers and trailers when forwarding the packets. And routers use the same general process to make a routing decision, comparing the packet’s destination IP address to the routing table.

The big differences between IPv4 and IPv6 revolve around the bigger IPv6 addresses. The next topic begins the looking at the specifics of these IPv6 addresses.

IPv6 Addressing Formats and Conventions

The CCENT and CCNA R/S exams require some fundamental skills in working with IPv4 addresses. For example, you need to be able to interpret IPv4 addresses, like You need to be able to work with prefix-style masks, like /25, and interpret what that means when used with a particular IPv4 address. And you need to be able to take an address and mask, like, and find the subnet ID.

This second major section of this chapter discusses these same ideas for IPv6 addresses. In particular, this section looks at

  • How to write and interpret unabbreviated 32-digit IPv6 addresses
  • How to abbreviate IPv6 addresses, and how to interpret abbreviated addresses
  • How to interpret the IPv6 prefix length mask
  • How to find the IPv6 prefix (subnet ID), based on an address and prefix length mask

The biggest challenge with these tasks lies in the sheer size of the numbers. Thankfully, the math to find the subnet ID—often a challenge for IPv4—is easier for IPv6, at least to the depth discussed in this book.

Representing Full (Unabbreviated) IPv6 Addresses

IPv6 uses a convenient hexadecimal (hex) format for addresses. To make it more readable, IPv6 uses a format with eight sets of four hex digits, with each set of four digits separated by a colon. For example:

  • 2340:1111:AAAA:0001:1234:5678:9ABC:1234

IPv6 addresses also have a binary format as well, but thankfully, most of the time you do not need to look at the binary version of the addresses. However, in those cases, converting from hex to binary is relatively easy. Just change each hex digit to the equivalent 4-bit value listed in Table 25-2.

Table 25-2. Hexadecimal/Binary Conversion Chart



































Abbreviating and Expanding IPv6 Addresses

IPv6 also defines ways to abbreviate or shorten how you write or type an IPv6 address. Why? Although using a 32-digit hex number works much better than working with a 128-bit binary number, 32 hex digits is still a lot of digits to remember, recognize in command output, and type on a command line. The IPv6 address abbreviation rules let you shorten these numbers.

Computers and routers typically use the shortest abbreviation, even if you type all 32 hex digits of the address. So even if you would prefer to use the longer unabbreviated version of the IPv6 address, you need to be ready to interpret the meaning of an abbreviated IPv6 address as listed by a router or host. This section first looks at abbreviating addresses, and then at expanding addresses.

Abbreviating IPv6 Addresses

Two basic rules let you, or any computer, shorten or abbreviate an IPv6 address:

  1. Inside each quartet of four hex digits, remove the leading 0s (0s on the left side of the quartet) in the three positions on the left. (Note: at this step, a quartet of 0000 will leave a single 0.)
  2. Find any string of two or more consecutive quartets of all hex 0s, and replace that set of quartets with double colon (::). The :: means “two or more quartets of all 0s.” However, you can only use :: once in a single address, because otherwise the exact IPv6 might not be clear.

For example, consider the following IPv6 address. The bold digits represent digits in which the address could be abbreviated.

  • FE00:0000:0000:0001:0000:0000:0000:0056

Applying the first rule, you would look at all eight quartets independently. In each, remove all the leading 0s. Note that five of the quartets have four 0s, so for these, only remove three 0s, leaving the following value:

  • FE00:0:0:1:0:0:0:56

While this abbreviation is valid, the address can be abbreviated more, using the second rule. In this case, two instances exist where more than one quartet in a row has only a 0. Pick the longest such sequence, and replace it with ::, giving you the shortest legal abbreviation:

  • FE00:0:0:1::56

While FE00:0:0:1::56 is indeed the shortest abbreviation, this example happens to make it easier to see the two most common mistakes when abbreviating IPv6 addresses. First, never remove trailing 0s in a quartet (0s on the right side of the quartet). In this case, the first quartet of FE00 cannot be shortened at all, because the two 0s trail. So, the following address, that begins now with only FE in the first quartet, is not a correct abbreviation of the original IPv6 address:

  • FE:0:0:1::56

The second common mistake is to replace all series of all 0 quartets with a double colon. For example, the following abbreviation would be incorrect for the original IPv6 address listed in this topic:

  • FE00::1::56

The reason this abbreviation is incorrect is because now you do not know how many quartets of all 0s to substitute into each :: to find the original unabbreviated address.

Expanding Abbreviated IPv6 Addresses

To expand an IPv6 address back into its full unabbreviated 32-digit number, use two similar rules. The rules basically reverse the logic of the previous two rules:

  1. In each quartet, add leading 0s as needed until the quartet has four hex digits.
  2. If a double colon (::) exists, count the quartets currently shown; the total should be less than 8. Replace the :: with multiple quartets of 0000 so that eight total quartets exist.

The best way to get comfortable with these addresses and abbreviations is to do some yourself. Table 25-3 lists some practice problems, with the full 32-digit IPv6 address on the left, and the best abbreviation on the right. The table gives you either the expanded or abbreviated address, and you need to supply the opposite value. The answers sit at the end of the chapter, in the section “Answers to Earlier Practice Problems.”

Table 25-3.IPv6 Address Abbreviation and Expansion Practice













You will become more comfortable with these abbreviations as you get more experience. The “Review Activities” section at the end of this chapter lists several suggestions for getting more practice.

Representing the Prefix Length of an Address

IPv6 uses a mask concept, called the prefix length, similar to IPv4 subnet masks. Similar to the IPv4 prefix-style mask, the IPv6 prefix length is written as a /, followed by a decimal number. The prefix length defines how many bits of the IPv6 address defines the IPv6 prefix, which is basically the same concept as the IPv4 subnet ID.

When writing IPv6 addresses, if the prefix length matters, the prefix length follows the IPv6 address. When writing documentation, you can leave a space between the address and the /, but when typing the values into a Cisco router, you might need to configure with or without the space. For example, use either of these for an address with a 64-bit prefix length:

  • 2222:1111:0:1:A:B:C:D/64
  • 2222:1111:0:1:A:B:C:D /64

Finally, note that the prefix length is a number of bits, so with IPv6, the legal value range is from 0 through 128, inclusive.

Calculating the IPv6 Prefix (Subnet ID)

With IPv4, you can take an IP address and the associated subnet mask, and calculate the subnet ID. With IPv6 subnetting, you can take an IPv6 address and the associated prefix length, and calculate the IPv6 equivalent of the subnet ID: an IPv6 prefix.

Like with different IPv4 subnet masks, some IPv6 prefix lengths make for an easy math problem to find the IPv6 prefix, while some prefix lengths make the math more difficult. This section looks at the easier cases, mainly because the size of the IPv6 address space lets us all choose to use IPv6 prefix lengths that make the math much easier.

Finding the IPv6 Prefix

In IPv6, a prefix represents a group of IPv6 addresses. For now, this section focuses on the math, and only the math, for finding the number that represents that prefix. Chapter 26, “IPv6 Addressing and Subnetting,” then starts putting more meaning behind the actual numbers.

Each IPv6 prefix, or subnet if you prefer, has a number that represents the group. Per the IPv6 RFCs, the number itself is also called the prefix, but many people just call it a subnet number or subnet ID, using the same terms as IPv4.

Like IPv4, you can start with an IPv6 address and prefix length, and find the prefix, with the same general rules that you use in IPv4. If the prefix length is /P, use these rules:

  1. Copy the first P bits.
  2. Change the rest of the bits to 0.

When using a prefix length that happens to be a multiple of 4, you do not have to think in terms of bits, but in terms of hex digits. A prefix length that is a multiple of 4 means that each hex digit is either copied, or changed to 0. Just for completeness, if the prefix length is indeed a multiple of 4, the process becomes

  1. Identify the number of hex digits in the prefix by dividing the prefix length (which is in bits) by 4.
  2. Copy the hex digits determined to be in the prefix per the first step.
  3. Change the rest of the hex digits to 0.

Figure 25-7 shows an example, with a prefix length of 64. In this case, Step 1 looks at the /64 prefix length, and calculates that the prefix has 16 hex digits. Step 2 copies the first 16 digits of the IPv6 address, while Step 3 records hex 0s for the rest of the digits.

Figure 25-7

Figure 25-7.Creating the IPv6 Prefix from an Address/Length

After you find the IPv6 prefix, you should also be ready to abbreviate the IPv6 prefix using the same rules you use to abbreviate IPv6 addresses. However, you should pay extra attention to the end of the prefix, because it often has several octets of all 0 values. As a result, the abbreviation typically ends with two colons (::).

For example, consider the following IPv6 address that is assigned to a host on a LAN:

  • 2000:1234:5678:9ABC:1234:5678:9ABC:1111/64

This example shows an IPv6 address that itself cannot be abbreviated. After you calculate the prefix for the subnet in which the address resides, by zeroing out the last 64 bits (16 digits) of the address, you find the following prefix value:

  • 2000:1234:5678:9ABC:0000:0000:0000:0000/64

This value can be abbreviated, with four quartets of all 0s at the end, as follows:

  • 2000:1234:5678:9ABC::/64

To get better at the math, take some time to work through finding the prefix for several practice problems, as listed in Table 25-4. The answers sit at the end of the chapter, in the section “Answers to Earlier Practice Problems.”

Table 25-4.Finding the IPv6 Prefix from an Address/Length Value













The “Review Activities” section at the end of this chapter lists several suggestions for getting more practice. The “Answers to Earlier Practice Problems” section at the end of the chapter also contains Table 25-8, which lists a completed version of this table so that you can check your work.

Working with More Difficult IPv6 Prefix Lengths

Some prefix lengths make the math to find the prefix very easy, some mostly easy, and some require you to work in binary. If the prefix length is a multiple of 16, the process of copying part of the address copies entire quartets. If the prefix length is not a multiple of 16, but is a multiple of 4, at least the boundary sits at the edge of a hex digit, so you can avoid working in binary.

Although the /64 prefix length is by far the most common prefix length, you should be ready to find the prefix when using a prefix length that is any multiple of 4. For example, consider the following IPv6 address and prefix length:

  • 2000:1234:5678:9ABC:1234:5678:9ABC:1111/56

Because this example uses a /56 prefix length, the prefix includes the first 56 bits, or first 14 complete hex digits, of the address. The rest of the hex digits will be 0, resulting in the following prefix:

  • 2000:1234:5678:9A00:0000:0000:0000:0000/56

This value can be abbreviated, with four quartets of all 0s at the end, as follows:

  • 2000:1234:5678:9A00::/56

This example shows an easy place to make a mistake. Sometimes, people look at the /56 and think of that as the first 14 hex digits, which is correct. However, they then copy the first 14 hex digits, and add a double colon, showing the following:

  • 2000:1234:5678:9A::/56

This abbreviation is not correct, because it removed the trailing “00” at the end of the fourth quartet. So, be careful when abbreviating when the boundary is not at the edge of a quartet.

Once again, some extra practice can help. Table 25-5 uses examples that have a prefix length that is a multiple of 4, but is not on a quartet boundary, just to get some extra practice. The answers sit at the end of the chapter, in the section “Answers to Earlier Practice Problems.”

Table 25-5.Finding the IPv6 Prefix from an Address/Length Value













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  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020