Internode to “quietly” shut down Usenet service


news National broadband provider Internode has internally flagged plans to “quietly” shut down the Premium Usenet newsgroup server it has offered to customers for some years as a free value-add to their existing broadband plans.

Popular in the 1980’s and 90’s, Usenet is a distributed Internet discussion platform which still sees a substantial amount of traffic today. The system allows users to host discussions and publish files and is accessed by users through localised mirrors, typically provided by ISPs or web hosting companies. It has also emerged as a major rival to file sharing services such as BitTorrent.

In an internal email to Internode employees in July last year sighted by Delimiter this week, Internode managing director Simon Hackett noted that the company had operated a Usenet service for some years to customers (believed to be through a partnership with Astraweb). The service had been popular with many advanced broadband users and was free of charge to Internode customers. However, wrote Hackett in his email to staff, Internode was in the process of “retiring” the Usenet service. “At some (as yet undecided) point in the future, we expect to shut the service down completely,” he wrote.

At the time, Hackett made it clear to Internode staff that the change was to occur “quietly”, without making a public fuss of the issue. Initially, all references to the Usenet service would be “removed” from the Internode website — including configuration details for the platform. The change did not go unnoticed, with a number of Internode customers protesting against the change on broadband forum Whirlpool at the time, and noting that the availability of the service was one of the main reasons they chose Internode as their broadband supplier.

At the time, despite Hackett’s pronouncement internally that the service was to be retired, Internode representative on Whirlpool Michael Kratz posted a number of responses to customers stating that no decision had yet been made as to its future. “We’re currently re-evaluating whether we retire or modify this service in the future,” he said. “No decision has yet been made regarding the timing of any changes to this service for existing customers.”

Kratz’s statements on Whirlpool are consistent with the messaging which Hackett told Internode staff they should use, when responding to customer enquiries on the matter. “There is no official reason to be provided — it’s just a decision we’ve taken,” he wrote in his email. “For existing customers, the answer is: ‘Premium USENet continues to be provided to existing customers at this time, however Internode may retire or modify this service in the future. No decision has yet been made regarding the timing of any changes to this service for existing customers.'”

“For newly enquiring customers who may say ‘Where did the Premium Usenet feature go?”, the answer is: ‘Internode is no longer offering Premium USENet as a selling feature of our services for new customers. It might work for you, but its continued operation for signups after 5th July 2011 is not guaranteed’. In both cases, try to resist embellishing those responses because that may lead to misinterpretations of them. When we have more news (cough) on this topic, we’ll provide it.”

Hackett pointed out that Internode wasn’t the only Usenet provider around, with commercial providers of such services easily available online for a fee. “It’s ok to point out that there are other ways to locate and (pay to) use this service should customers wish to use those alternative ways in the future and they can type ‘Premium Usenet’ into Google for plenty of places to go,” he wrote in his email to staff. “Internode is not ‘blocking’ anything here. We’re just gearing up to stop paying the bills on behalf of those of our customers who want to use this service.”

It’s not the first time Internode has been concerned about the financial viability of its Usenet service. In May 2007, the company temporarily shut down the service only a year after it first launched, citing the fact that only a small proportion of customers used the service. However, it was quickly reinstated, following customer complaints. Internode executives were emailed with a request to comment on this issue on Saturday afternoon but have not yet responded. Internode’s Premium Usenet service appears to still be active at the moment.

Internode is completely within its rights to shut down the Premium Usenet service, and this makes business sense. I’m sure maintaining the service is costing the company a pretty penny, and Hackett’s right — commercial services are already available if customers want to access this kind of service.

However, the way the company has communicated its decision to customers has been disingenuous. In public, Kratz was saying on Whirlpool that no decision had yet been made to definitely shut down the service, while privately, Hackett was telling staff that a decision had been made. There is a conscious approach of telling customers one thing and staff another.

It’s not at all unusual for this sort of behaviour to take place — I’ve seen similar examples of misleading statements from virtually every major company I’ve covered in Australia over the past decade. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s right. Once a decision has been made on an issue affecting customers, that decision should be communicated quickly. Why not just tell customers that the cost of operating the Usenet server wasn’t worth the return? Customers can understand financial decisions like that. There’s no need for all this cloak and dagger stuff.

Image credits: Paul Brunskill, royalty free and Delimiter


  1. It also wouldn’t look good for iinet to be owning a company that provides access to usenet…..

  2. It should be noted that – as far as I know, based on comments on Whirlpool from people who have done some poking – Internode do not actually run a “Usenet mirror”. They just provide a direct link to a commercial Usenet service (I can’t remember which one, but people on WP know – it’s changed at least once) and have an arrangement with them so their customers have access. Their service is not hosted in Australia, and they don’t have to do any “maintenance” on the service per se (other than providing a DNS entry).

    This move is, unfortunately, completely unsurprising. The cat is out of the bag for Usenet in terms of piracy – providers of Usenet search and services have been under attack for a while now, but there is still so much more good low hanging fruit in the form of torrent users that Big Media hasn’t bothered making a full scale campaign. But it seems inevitable, and getting out of the line of fire is probably a good move for Internode.

    I’m disappointed, we’ve posted a lot of stuff to Usenet (just search for AusGamers) – completely legitimate stuff that we’ve had a lot of users download. It’s great for us (because it moves downloads off our servers :) and great for users because it means they can get super-fast downloads (and repair corrupted downloads via par2).

    I would personally like to see Internode/iiNet make another stand – not that they haven’t done enough already – but focus on the non-copyright-infringing uses of Usenet, because – just like BitTorrent – they are incredibly useful services for a whole bunch of reasons.

    • Many rules. Maybe someone cross posted a post mentioning Hitler. That should end all further posting.

  3. Slight correction, Internode don’t actually host a mirror, but simply offer access directly to Astraweb’s news service through a domain alias.

  4. The article *STILL* says “I’m sure maintaining the mirror is costing the company a pretty penny”… for the third time they DO NOT run a mirror.

  5. Renai, this has to be some poor form reporting here, you’ve strung together a relatively disingenuous piece on a very old e-mail [ironically] with no actual information that (can) be released to the general public as it doesn’t yet exist…..

    Digging ever so slightly below the surface on your opinion piece, my thoughts, and tons of anecdotal evidence support, that ‘node is highly likely to be [ironically] doing the right thing and being hung out to dry by you for it ….

    So, to relay the facts:

    1. Service has not been shuttered;
    2. New customers haven’t been offered the service in almost a year;
    3. Existing customers have now (to date, and without any confirmation of an official shutdown) had, at absolute minimum, several months of the service being offered to them;
    4. No official date has yet been decided (that we have any evidence or support for);

    Now for my opinion/read on the above notes:

    1a. Ahhhhh yep, it still works :)

    2a. read: ‘node shutter the service to new customers and ensure they don’t signup with expectation and then get shafted shortly thereafter.

    Seems like the right thing to do by my standards of fairness. That’s +1 for ‘node.

    3a. read: commercial decisions can be made if a service is unsustainable, and from Simon’s e-mail it appears that it’s *already* unsustainable, yet they’re continuing it anyway for an extended period of time so (mostly newly signed up, ie from pre-July last year) customers don’t get pi$$ed off when it gets shutdown prematurely.

    Customer first at impact on profits (for a reasonable period) That’s +1 again for ‘node

    4a. read: Assuming that ‘node continues to operate in good faith and communicate (heavily) with it’s customer base as it has over the past decade, can we not reasonably take it on face value that a decision has not yet been made on shutdown date?

    No reason to believe otherwise, decade of anecdotal evidence to support my statement. That’s +1 for ‘node.

    4b. This was pre-iiNet so let’s not muddy the waters with that rubbish!

    Anybody who mentions iiNet anywhere in this discussion needs a firm punch in the goolies :)


    In short Renai, I expect intelligent discourse and reporting from you sir, if I need poorly formulated opinion I can always pick up the Telegraph for my daily amusement ;)


    • *shrugs* if you feel this is a poorly written article, then feel free to go and read the Daily Telegraph. Frankly, I’ve reported the facts as they are. Internode plans to shut down the service. I don’t have a problem with that — in fact, I specifically mentioned it as a legitimate business decision — but it also needs to disclose that to customers. I also asked Internode for comment. They didn’t respond after 36 hours.

      What more do you want?

      • seems fair me…..ain’t no pleasing the node fanbois though…….if it was w’pool, you’re article would’ve been deleted by now.

        • Exactly! Anyone else notice that Whirlpool holds some sort of protection over Internode. You can’t mention any negative experience. Otherwise your posts will either get deleted, fanboys bagging you out and (not having their posts deleted), followed by your precious “aura” being killed off.

    • Sorry number your point number 2 is wrong, New customers do have access to Usenet via Internode ;)

  6. Internode (iiNet) need to be careful here, I guess they know how many users this would affect, however one of the reasons people are happy to pay a premium price for Internode are for the premium features – if they drop usenet out then ideally the plan prices would adjust down about $5 a month to compensate for now having to chase up a subscription directly (from what I’ve seen its usually about 7-10dollars for a retail account).

  7. It’s a shame, because saving ~$100+/year was one of the reasons I have looked at Internode in the past.

    That being said, if it is not profitable for them, then they could always have advertised it better so more people would use it <.< Or, potentially just provide access to non-binary groups.

  8. Renai,

    I thought we had learned the lesson of posting news based on internal emails that, sometimes, aren’t actually reflective of actual facts? The most recent screwup has to be postulation on a Telstra internal memo that ended up having a completely different source.

    Never mind, we’ll just claim internal actions don’t match external, ignoring reasons and causes and the fact that the business has to ensure it acts within certain advertising rules and such.

    Come on, you can do better than drawing a long bow for readership LOLs. You’re getting slack. :)

    Lets see, USNET has been de-listed as a major feature. It’s had a great run, and if the ISP decides to shutter the service, then that’s their choice to make. A similar service can be had for < $9 a month. Hardly an epic loss.

    Internode has done the right thing here, they have been plain, up-front about the service, that it's currently a value add (and has only every been so) that may cease in the future. They've stopped actively selling the feature so that they do not accidentally end up in a bait-and-switch claim.

    What internal emails say, that are not for public release, are a bit irrelevant. They may offer an insight into thinking at the time they are created but have a very short half-life and often end up being taken out of context.

    Such as now.

    Seriously, short of sending you an email to outline the exact future, they couldn’t be more open if they tried.

    Reading more into the tea-leaves than that, then postulating opinion as some kind of tea-leaves “fact” is really short-selling the situation.

    It may go. Fair enough. There’s a lot of FUD around USENET and use cases. Frankly that’s up to individual users to weigh up against current copyright laws.

    There’s also been a lot of customers b*tching about the service over the most minor of issues; I’d have canned the service years ago and saved myself the hassle, but that just me. Instead the ISP honours the notion that a usenet service is available, but may not last.

    I really can’t see tens of thousands leaving in protest of a thing that hasn’t yet happened. :)

    • There’s obvious reader interest in this information being published, mate. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read the site ;)

      • yeah just another whining node fanboi – if it was a leak from any other tech compnay or govt it relevant government agency – there would be nothing but praise. i wish node would jsut hurry up and disappear.

      • Didn’t say I didn’t like it Renai. I said you could do better than digging up an eight-month old email and postulating. ;)

        At the end of the day, it’s a service that may well be closed. To those having a go saying I’m in denial, please learn to read before racing to respond.

        I’ve already indicated it may well be closed. But, that’ll happen as a consequence of an official statement, not because Renai dredged up an old email that states the obvious (nothing lasts for ever) and chose now to be the moment that something was going to suddenly change, never mind eight months passing.

        Also, I’m not the other Brendan. No idea who that is. ;)

  9. Well it has been looking pretty obvious for some time it was going to be closed-just when and obviously before being bought out by iinet
    The fanbois will continue to pay over the odds and try and justify it-you can lead a horse to water but cant make it drink it:)

  10. A bit of history from my fuzzy memory of public whingepool statements by internode staff when this was first launched years ago and some divining from chicken entrails.

    The viability of this service is dependent on the cost of wholesale access via a private peering link in the US + backhaul costs being lower than the cost of transit. If internode can fill your monthly quota with cheaper data then it is a win for them.

    When this was first launched local costs of transit was expensive and there were some statements from some internode staff that it was cheaper than normal transit for them to do this so why not. Since PPC-1 has come online international transit pricing has been dropping like a rock. It could well now be the case that transit is now cheaper that peering with a usenet provider. Making premium usenet a less enticing service to offer.

    • I have no doubt that there are elements of this in the thinking. From my own point of view, I know a lot of people use it, but I wouldn’t expect a modern ISP to provide such a service anyway. Only a small proportion of the population would know what Usenet is at this point.

  11. It was bound to happen. The writing was on the wall the day it was discovered that Node was no longer advertising the service via it’s website.
    To believe anything different is just ignorance and the fact that the fanbois’s “still” don’t believe it goes to show the trance SH has them in lol….

    This won’t be the only thing that changes for Internode. iiNet”ism will slowly gnaw at Nodes inner core and mesh to be another iiNet clone.

    • Considering the trouble the usenet service has had with speeds and retention recently, I doubt anyone is paying attention.

        • I stopped using for anything older than a few weeks because the Astraweb server threw a hissyfit if I downloaded something reasonably old.

          My paid usenet account has proved to be far more reliable.

  12. Well SH replied in the Whirlpool thread not addressing any of the issues …. Sure sounds sus >_>

    • True. He obviously had the time to write a “victim of crime” speech but could of instead summarised what is actually happening.
      Always the same ole chestnut “poor me” and that is well past it’s use by date.

      Wait for the official announcement once he knows what to write and how to spin it to look like cotton candy and sparkles, as per usual.

  13. I don’t see anything in your article that states they 100% will shut down the service.

    Seems to me like they told staff what they told Whirlpool, we’re looking into it and giving them no time to reply to your request seems a little silly (not everyone works on the weekend).

    Making another news post out of nothing are we Renai?

      • I’ve never seen those sentiments echoed anywhere in WP by SH. The only time anything was mentioned was when someone noticed that Usenet was no longer being advertised and the usual “keep the masses” happy and tell them something different than what is actually going to happen.

        I’d imagine that 8 months ago for them to take it away and with Telstra taking customers with their plans it might not have (obviously) been a good idea. Bring back some revised Agile plans to sweeten the deal then slowly give the bad news haha

  14. first time I’ve heard about this “change”. If the service does go away, I will reevaluate my choice of ISP.

  15. another poor article. 6months ago, an isp decided that at a future time they would remove a service, but have yet to do so. And you’re trashing them as being disingenuous. Not for not yet removing it, but saying they intend to. Well, its old news now and so far they havent touched it.
    So until a decision is made, they dont need to disclose jack to their existing customers. As for new customers, they have done the right thing.
    internode – 1
    renai – 0

  16. One of the reason why I left Internode. Haven’t looked back. Internode isn’t the same company it was back 10 years ago, they’ve changed!

    Time for the fanboys to get over Internode, they aren’t worth your cash anymore.


    • That is if you accept that there are issues to be addressed in the first place.

      The whole situation would be much better if people stopped talking about UseNet at all.

    • lmao..He has now composed two posts and neither state what we want to know. Talk about hiding behind the fanbois. And, once again, he’s playing the victim of crimes speech.

      Now, not that long ago he was praised for having “balls” to come out and give the reasons why things happened. Where are those “balls” now and either spend 5 minutes and give your customers the decency as to an official answer. Stop hiding behind your fanbois on WP and grow some!

      • If you had bothered to actually read the posts thoroughly, he’s saying “I don’t have time to respond comprehensively yet, please simmer down until i do so”.

        Far from hiding behind “fanbois”.

        Shame on you for providing a beatup Renai, i thought you had more integrity than that.

        • Hahahaha glad you believe that, it would have taken 10-20 minutes to compose the 2 posts that he made, yet a simple 20 second reply to confirm or deny the email.

          WOW fanboi’ism really makes some people blind!

        • Have to disagree. Still doesn’t agree the customers were being misled. I don’t know how you can say you expect usenet to be closed down then argue that it doesn’t mean they have made a decision. Of course they have they have decided that they expect it to be shut down. A long way from not making a decision. I hope if Simon ever gets a letter that they expect to have to demolish his house to make way for a freeway that he doesn’t ignore it thinking not decission has been made.

  18. What I can’t quite understand is why you bothered putting this up on Monday, reporting an 8 month old email and saying you were awaiting a response from Internode on a weekend.

    Why didn’t you just give it some more time- some actual business-hours time, as its not exactly a pressing issue, being based on an 8 month old email…?

  19. Jees, way to get the nodebois fired up Rene! Still anything that might take a glimmer of the hackyhalo is bound to draw the snipers over from WP…

  20. The node fanbois are missing the point! Its not about a service going away or staying, its about Internodes honestly and integrity when it comes to dealing with their customers. SH does not even dispute that what the decision was, and what was supposed to be said to customers, are 2 diffirent things!

    RIP iiNode

    • I think this demonstrates Simon’s main problem. People’s insinuation that he is dishonest. Anyone that has followed Simon’s interactions with the public for any amount of time knows full well that he is the most forthright CEOs in the country and has been that way for over a decade.

      What’s more sad is that he can no longer be as open and honest as he once was as he seems to have become an easy target for the vast army of internet trolls that are out there.

      Renai, I read your site daily, but I must admit I am a bit disappointed with the tact and intention of this article. If anything you have also probably sealed the fate of the Usenet service at Internode by bringing it into the spotlight, rather than saving it as may have been your intention.

  21. I am an Internode customer, don’t use usenet. But, I think, sensible enough not to be a fanboi. Terrific ISP, by far the best international links, very little evening slowdown. BUT.
    I do think Simon having written an general email to staff saying that usenet will be decomissioned in the future while another staff member, who would be aware of this email, is telling people on Whirlpool that their has been no decission made on usenets future to be a little dishonest.
    The only point it wouldn’t be is if there was another email sent after the first informing staff that usenet being shutdown wasn’t the plan any more.
    If this is not the case, the staff member was knowingly lying to customers on whirlpool.

    • …and we have no proof of any of that. We haven’t seen the email or the wording of it or the timestamp. Without any of that we really can’t accuse anyone of anything.

      • For fuck’s sake. There is proof. I have the email. It is real. I don’t have to publish the goddamn thing. What, do you think I am simply going to publish unverified lies? I’m a professional journalist of a decade’s standing.

        • Just to go against the flow of stupidity here…
          Thanks Renai for an interesting article. I managed to tell a few mates about it at work who are with Internode and access the usenet regularly and they were surprised that this was on the cards.

      • For a start we have SH acknoledging the email and other than saying it was 8 months old not refutting what it said. His whole objection so far has been that he is being attacked. He has not stated that the email is bogus, in fact he virtually admits it is real. So far he has neither confirmed or denied the plan to close down usenet, saying he is too busy to respond. At the same times these are very lengthy response with no time to respond. Nothing against the guy but my feeling is he is going to need to time to word a response that doesn’t say to everyone that what happened was exactly what Renai said.
        He told the company usenet will be closed down at some undisclosed future time and one of his staff posted on numerous occasions afterwards that no plans had been made as to the future of usenet. Argue all you like about whether there was a time frame etc, but the plan was to eventually close it down.

        • Where in the article does it say the email was 8 MONTHS OLD??, oh wait it doesn’t. I also like how you link to pages but don’t offer the information in the article. This little quote from the first like from MK “For clarity, it’s not actually going away yet”, as provided by your link, suggests at some point it is going away, so whats the “story” here?

          Its been over 8 months, so MK’s quote was true, so no lies there…. The service is still running and since Internode have pretty much always provided information about there major movements, if they decide to close it down im sure we will be notified.

          I actually started reading Delimiter at work, ill just skip those links next time, what trash.

  22. Some need to actually get away from their computers and go for a run or something productive. Its the internet FFS not a life style..

    Get a bex or a beer or even get a root. ;-)

    We all could be dead tomorrow all we know

    • BTW, not everyone finds wiping themselves out on booze each weekend to be a life style, most call it alcoholism. Also, some people can “get a root” without the rootee being wasted enough to have sex with them.

  23. youre reporting about an internal email 6 months old, and the service is still going, perhaps it doesnt want to retire :)

    im fairly sure most people knew this was on the cards the instant it was stopped being advertised as a selling point to new customers. ie we knew it may go away at some point, we just never knew when that was going to exactly happen.

    we still dont because in all of this “news” article, you have no idea either (if you had some actual real info about the termination of the service then that would be news) – im not sure i understand where the “news” is in this, your FACTS as you call them are nil, the service is still operating, it may very well stop tomorrow, but it could also still operate for several more years before being retired.

    its like reporting that tony abbot is dieing, which he is, but then so are we all, we just dont know exactly when its going to happen.

  24. So the gist of it is they were privately saying “we _will_ shut down the Usenet service at some unspecified point in time” while publicly stating “we _may_ shut down the Usenet service at some unspecified point in time”, and that distinction wasn’t an accident, but a concious decision not to be straight up with the public.

    Hardly the deception of the century, but I agree it’s a bit disingenuous. Type of story more commonly reported in relation to politics, where publicly a government takes the position that “no final decision has been made” on an issue, while documents later reveal there had been.

  25. Looks like my usenet has stopped today. I’d like to think it’s on my end, but I’ve got a feeling the time has come.

    I really hope not. Goddamn I really hope it hasn’t. Looks like there’s no reason to stay with Internode anymore. TPG unlimited along with a paid usenet account looks f’ing fantastic right now.

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