One of the great things about the newsgroups are the extensive discussion threads on virtually any topic. Especially for technical discussions, the newsgroups provide a level of readership and expertise that many find superior to the web. If you're a Sprint, Verizon or Road Runner customer, this privilege was largely removed on Monday, thanks to political pressure from the New York Attorney General's office.
The controversial move was taken in the name of child safety. Abusive images were found on 88 newsgroups, which prompted the aforementioned ISPs to discontinue their support for newsgroup access in varying fashions. From Monday forward, customers of these ISPs could no longer visit many of the overwhelmingly positive and legal aspects of the newsgroups.
Road Runner decided to discontinue their support for the newsgroups in their entirety. Verizon has scaled back
their support considerably, and only offers the "Big 8", while access to the alt.* hierarchy has been eliminated. Sprint's newsgroup policy will be similar to Verizon's.
"While we understand around 11,390 sexual abuse images were reported, these represented only a very small percentage (0.25%) of the roughly 4,000,000 articles in the 80 deleted Newsgroups," Giganews told Slyck.com. "Thus, in the 80 deleted Newsgroups, 99.75% of the articles were free of sexual abuse images and otherwise legal."
Comparing the images found in the 88 newsgroups to the bigger Usenet picture, the decision to either eliminate of scale back newsgroup access becomes more befuddling.
"The numbers get even smaller when compared to the 3.7 billion articles available in all newsgroups. In this larger context, sexual abuse images accounted for merely 0.0003% of all the available articles in Giganews' servers at that time."
Unfortunately the newgroups, like P2P and BitTorrent, receive a bad rap because of their perceived nature. But just because the newsgroups may not be an option with your current ISP, doesn't mean the newsgroups are going away. In fact, there are many independent providers that are offering discounts to Road Runner, Verizon and Sprint customers. Slyck has compiled a list of independent providers that are currently running specials for ISP refugees.
(rated 4/5 stars on Slyck) is currently offering 15% off for all ex Verizon, Sprint and Road Runner newsgroup customers for the duration of the account's existance.
(rated 4/5 stars) is offering "$29.99 per quarter for unmetered accounts, which is about 25% off." This policy appears to apply to Verizon and Road Runner customers.
(rated 4/5 stars) is offering 50% off their diamond account and 20% off all other accounts for the first month of access for Verizon, Sprint and Road Runner customers.
(rated 4/5 stars) is offering Road Runner and Verizon customers 50% off their High Speed Plus service for the first month, 20% off their High Speed for the first month, and an alternative discounted 3 month deal for the high speed connection.
(unrated) is also offering discounted packages to all customers in response to the ISP's decision.
Additionally, many newsgroup providers such as Easy News
(top rated service on Slyck) provide trial access with a refund guarantee. Slyck has an extensive list of newsgroup providers in our Guide to the Newgroups
Now, these services might be overkill if your intention is to only post text messages and/or read content. There are many free, public access newsgroup servers available. However, these services generally do not accommodate the binaries very well and only support text messages. It should be noted though, that many free services do provide access to the binaries, but only to read or post small segments of text. It should not be expected that a free service can provide the same function as UsenetServer. Maxbaud
continues to provide an extensive listing of free newsgroup servers, complete with details on which server provides binary access, which allows posting, and which ones are read only.
Like the Enterprise in The Wrath of Khan, the newgroups aren't going anywhere. They are independent of your ISP, and will continue to exist as long as there's an Internet. Politics often times crops up online, yet luckily the impact is minimal.