Let's look at regions belonging to the two biggest entities in space, shall we?
Let's start with Deklein, home of Goonswarm Federation. Here's a view of jumps in this region in 24 hours. Here's a view of NPC kills in this region in 24 hours. As you can see, Deklein is a busy place, particularly for null-sec. Lots of moving around, lots of activity, lots of utilization spread around the region. Dotlan unfortunately doesn't provide maps of active pilots per system the way the EVE in-game map does, but if it did, you'd see large bubbles of activity throughout the region. Goonswarm lives in Deklein and they operate in Deklein.
Now let's cross the galaxy and look at Oasa, owned almost entirely by Shadow of xXDEATHXx. Here's a view of jumps in this region in 24 hours. Here's a view of NPC kills in this region in 24 hours. Oh look. Other than jump bridge systems (which are easy to spot) and the highway between Perrigen Falls and Cobalt Edge, the place is uninhabited and all but completely unused save for a handful of systems. Again, if you could see this region in the in-game map, you'd see dark, cold, empty space. No bubbles of activity. Hm, well perhaps the neighboring regions of Malpais or Perrigen Falls are better. Nope. Northeast Etherium Reach? Nope. Northeast Outer Passage? Nope. And again, if you looked at the in-game map, you'd find few or no bubbles of activity.
Both Shadow of xXDEATHXx and Goonswarm Federation have about 7500 members. GSF holds 116 systems, about a third of them in recently-conquered Branch, a place they don't intend to live (or even hold for long, most likely). xXDEATHXx holds 277 systems, again about a third of them taken in the recent DRF civil war.
I think it's pretty clear who's actually using their systems and living in them, though. And that's how sov should work: if you live in space and use that space, you get to hold sov there. If you don't, you don't.
It's called "sovereignty by occupation", and it's by far the most popular proposal around how sovereignty should work in EVE. And it will probably never, ever happen.
Let's look how territory is conquered and held during war-time in real life.
Traditionally, you start by formally declaring war on your target. You might even choose to publicize a deadline associated with your invasion. After that, it's traditional these days to go after enemy infrastructure with your air force, artillery, or other long-range assets. Once this is in full swing, your striking arm hits the defending forces of the territory you're invading, they're pushed back, you advance. Further attacks on rear echelon infrastructure become possible as you advance and over time, the process accelerates. As your striking arm moves forward, occupying forces settle into the conquered territory to ensure it stays conquered.
Wars in EVE follow a similar format. "EVE is real", right? The planting of SBUs correspond to the formal declaration of war. Attacks on CSAAs, jump bridges, and other POS structures correspond to the attack on infrastructure. Battles take place between the defenders and the attacker's striking arm, the defenders are pushed back. And after the territory is conquered, the attackers go home, leaving the newly-conquered territory completely unoccupied and denuded of all life.
Yeah, OK, maybe wars in EVE are not much like wars in real life. And neither is sovereignty. Let's look at an example.
DOCS-O is a very nice little constellation in Oasa sitting on the border of Cobalt Edge. It has six systems, five of them with an average true-sec of -0.55 or so and a sixth with a true-sec of -0.87. It's remarkably easy to defend. Its center system, XXZ-3W, is great for ratting, and has 75 moons and 29 asteroid belts with ABC available, making it ridiculously valuable to any mining alliance. There's a good mix of planets in the constellation for PI. There's no ice belt native to the constellation, but there's one only one jump over in the next region. Plant a station in XXZ and DOCS-O would make an ideal home for a currently-high-sec-bound industrial alliance.
xXDEATHXx has held this constellation continuously for more than three years. There's no evidence they've ever done anything with it. There's no evidence that they're EVER going to do anything with it. As I write this, XXZ has had 15 jumps in the last day, all of them singles or very small groups. This entire constellation has been owner-less for more than six weeks. It's nice real estate that a lot of EVE players would enjoy doing their thing in. It's not for everyone, sure. A PvP alliance would hate it. But not everyone in EVE does PvP, do they?
And I'm sure, if you have an industrial alliance, you can have this constellation. As long as you pay xXDEATHXx through the nose for the privilege of living in a constellation they have no interest in whatsoever. And as long as you form up every pilot you have for every CTA that xXDEATHXx ever calls. And as long as you're beholden to xXDEATHXx in every way. Anyone ready to sign up for that?
And don't get the impression this constellation is unique. There's other examples all through north and northeast null-sec, and it's becoming an increasing issue in other parts of space as well.
"I don't want it, but you can't have it, either." That's the message. That's what null-sec is increasingly looking like.
And DOCS-O is a pretty good constellation with good true-sec. You can imagine what the bad constellations look like these days. There are huge swaths of space in null that aren't held at all, or are only held so that the sov-holders will get EVE mail warning if anyone puts staging POSs in them. Because without the game to tell them, the owners wouldn't know. These aren't foreclosed houses, where a squatter can live for weeks undetected if you don't hire a security guard. The owner lives two thousand miles away, but is still notified instantly someone lights the living room lamp or sits in a chair. No security guard needed.
Sov by occupation would change all of that. Want to own a system? Your people have to live there. If there's no stations, people have to jump in and out, rat, mine, run sites, make the system productive... people in your alliance. Not your pets. If your pets come into your more valuable systems to rat and you don't, then ownership of that system shifts to them, not you. Station ownership should operate by tug-of-war mechanics. As long as you're there to defend your station access points when they become vulnerable, all is well. If you're not there, then you might get into system to find the station has new management. And the people that live in a system have the natural advantage of being there when the station access points become vulnerable.
Want to know why sov by occupation will probably never, ever make it into EVE Online? One word: renters.
But this post is already ridiculously long, so I'll pick it up again there tomorrow.