Verizon has announced that they will be stopping access to tens of thousands of Usenet discussion areas including the very popular alt.* groups that have been around since the late 1980s.
Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe said only a select few newsgroups/discussion groups would be offered to customers going into the future. It appears the decision is in response to political “strong-arming” from New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who wants strong restrictions on all newsgroups.
Cuomo added that his office had found child porn on at least 88 newsgroups, although that percentage is tiny compared to the over 90,000 newsgroups that exist. “We are attacking this problem by working with Internet service providers…I commend the companies that have stepped up today to embrace a new standard of responsibility, which should serve as a model for the entire industry,” read a press statement from Cuomo’s office.
Newsgroups are a pre-Web technology that has relied on ISPs and Universities to operate servers in which users can exchange messages and files.
With the decision however, comes the shut down of many useful newsgroups such as symantec.customerservice.general, us.military, microsoft.public.excel, and fr.soc.economie. which have longed helped users.
One user of the alt.hierarchy was very upset over the decision. “This is ridiculous. I actually met my wife on alt.personals, 14 years ago… I still use usenet - there are a lot good discussions and a person can get answers to questions on specific topics pretty quickly. It’s nice to have a decentralized place to hold discussions, one that is not beholden to a sysadmin to correctly run a forum, one that’s free of blinking gifs and flash ads.”