PC World has a nice article on the history of Usenet and its current state as many ISPs use the New York Attorney General's crusade against kiddie porn to drop or significantly water down their Usenet service. It's a good read and nicely explains that the elimination of Usenet service by ISPs has less to do with protecting children from porn and sexual predators and more to do with side-stepping legal challenges related to porn and copyright infringement. Binary Usenet newsgroups which allow users to exchange files are usually full of copyrighted music and movies (not to mention porn) and by eliminating them, ISPs avoid lawsuits by copyright organizations like the RIAA which love to sue people for "stealing" music and movies.
Removing binary groups supposedly also helps ISPs save on bandwidth but I don't think that this is the case. Most heavy binary users—the ones most responsible for driving up bandwidth usage on Usenet—will likely move to a third party Usenet provider if their ISP cuts their newsgroup service. And because these third party services tend to be better and faster than their ISPs service, these people will use them even more heavily than they ever used their ISPs Usenet service. And ultimately, the ISP will still have to move all of the bits to the end user even if they don't reside on their servers. My own intuition suggests that bandwidth usage will increase instead of decreasing.
But at least they won't get sued by the RIAA....
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