Published in News

U.S. ISPs to block large portions of Usenet

by on17 June 2008


Sprint and Verizon will drop all but the big 8

In reaction to complaints from New York’s Attorney General’s office, Verizon and Sprint will join other ISPs in dropping feeds from all Usenet news groups that don’t fall into the officially sanctioned Usenet hierarchies. The swift response is in reaction to complaints that many Usenet groups, particularly in the alt.* hierarchy, contain child-porn.

The alt.* hierarchy was created as a response as an alternative to the officially sanctioned Usenet groups. The big problem is that not all of the alt.* hierarchy is bad; and in fact many non-official groups serve as some of the best support on the Internet for a variety of big name vendor products.

With many casual Internet users not even aware of the existence of Usenet news groups and not having any clue how to even access them, the groups tend to attract a very technical crowd that is able to not only answer and troubleshoot problems, but hold very insightful discussions on a variety of levels that are not seen in other places on the World Wide Web.

Time Warner cable announced that it will be dropping all Usenet access entirely, while Sprint and Verizon have decided to choose to remove the entire alt.* hierarchy, which unfortunately will leave a big hole after many of the non-offending alt.* groups are removed. Other ISPs, such as AOL, have previously already removed the Usenet access prior to the complaint.

Besides the issue of free speech that is to be lost here, the reality is that many of the ISPs are more than happy to rid themselves of what some ISPs refer to as the legacy pain that is the Usenet groups. ISPs have complained about the amount of bandwidth that these groups suck up, as well as the large dedicated servers that are required to house and deliver them to only a handful of interested users.

The bigger problem for U.S. Internet users is the troublesome issue of ISPs blocking access to sections of the Internet. Will this set a precedent for ISPs to block other sections of the Internet when someone complains? While complaints regarding child-porn are valid, the way to deal with it is not blocking the entire alt.* hierarchy, in our opinion. Times are getting tough for Internet users in the U.S., with ISPs pulling stunts like this, as well as their attempted move to measured service. 2008 could be a very defining year on how ISPs will deliver the Internet to users and what users are willing to tolerate from their ISPs.

Last modified on 17 June 2008
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