news Internode today clarified that it had as yet set no date for when it will stop providing customers with subsidised access to Usenet Newsgroup services, although it still plans to do so at “some future point”.
The national broadband provider has for some years been providing subsidised access to the Astraweb newsgroup provider for customers as a free value-add option for customers. 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.
However, it emerged this week that the company has for some time been planning to stop funding the service to customers, with Internode managing director Simon Hackett noting in an internal staff email to employees in July last year — sighted by Delimiter this week — that the ISP expected to retire the Usenet access at “some (as yet undecided) point in the future”.
In a post on broadband forum Whirlpool this morning, Hackett clarified that the situation had not changed since July.
“What Internode expects is that we will at some point no longer provide zero cost access to Astraweb, because it just won’t matter enough any more, and hence the costs of that service just won’t make sense for to continue to carry; In the 1990’s Usenet was a big thing. In 2012, it is far less so,” he wrote. “But the point at which that occurs hasn’t been determined at all.”
The executive noted that Internode had stopped promoting the Usenet service in July last year, in expectation of eventually closing the Astraweb relationship. “Here, 8 months later, we have still not determined the ‘off date’ for that Astraweb relationship,” he noted. “In other words, in that intervening time, precisely nothing has changed. As I write this, it still hasn’t changed. There is still no determined end date.”
“Today, there is still no ‘off date’ for the service, just as there was no ‘off date’ for the service on 5th July 2011. It continues along for those who care, but it is no longer a feature that Internode touts as being a selling feature of our services, and we haven’t done so since that date.”
Customer opinion on the merits of the service being provided by Internode is divided. A number of customers who use the service have stated that they will seek another provider offering Newsgroup services if Internode stops providing subsidised access to Astraweb, with some citing fellow iiNet subsidiary Netspace as one example of an ISP supporting the service. However, others have highlighted the fact that Astraweb’s service only costs a minimal amount — $10 per month for unlimited downloads at 10Mbps, which would not add significantly to existing monthly broadband costs. The organisation also offers a variety of other pricing tiers, depending on how much Newsgroup data customers want to access and how fast they want to access it.
Other Newsgroup servers do exist — such as Thundernews, which offers “unlimited max” plans for US$12.99 a month, Giganews, which offers a range of plans up to US$24.99 a month, and Usenet.net, which offers plans up to $19.99 per month.
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.
Image credit: Internode