For those new to Usenet, choosing the right provider can be a daunting task. There are many factors to consider, yet they can all seem pretty much the same. Here we attempt to lift the fog from this lesser-known alternative to torrenting with a list of vital criteria every prospective Usenet customer should be aware of. These are in no particular order, as different people will find more value in factors over others.
A provider’s retention period indicates how long a file will be available for download after it was originally posted. 1,200 days is the standard for most Usenet services. Some are much lower, some are much higher. If you think that you will want access to older files, look for longer retention periods. The longest we’ve seen stretch up to almost 3,000 days.
Some providers limit the amount of data you can download per month to as little as 5 GB. Others are unlimited. Consider the type of content you plan on downloading and factor that into how big a transfer limit you’ll need. Music files are small, TV shows and movies are bigger, while games and software can wipe out an entire month’s allotment in one go. Often a provider will offer two or more tiers–one with a cap and one without.
Block or subscription account?
A subscription plan is paid either monthly or yearly. Depending on the plan, you may get a certain number of gigabytes to download per month or it might be unlimited. Most quality Usenet providers charge between $10 and $20 per month for a subscription, with multiple tiered services.
The other option is a block account, in which you buy a specified amount of data, say 1TB, to download and use it at your leisure. If you don’t download consistently, for instance because your favorite TV shows are seasonal, this might be a better option.
Block accounts are often purchased as backups to subscription accounts. If a show or movie has been removed from the subscription provider’s servers due to a DMCA request, for example, it might well be available on the block account provider’s servers. If you go this route, be sure that the two providers used different tier 1 networks, meaning they use different physical servers and aren’t just the same service under a different name.
You might assume that more connections equals faster downloads, but that isn’t always true. On a typical 10 to 20Mbps home connection, around 10 connections is usually optimal. Some providers offer 50 or 100 or even more simultaneous server connections, but they aren’t usually necessary unless you are on a fast (100+ Mbps) connection. In fact, you might find that speeds increase if you cap the number of connections in the settings on your newsreader app.
The slower your download speed, the less this factor matters.
It’s a good idea to opt for Usenet providers that support downloads through SSL/TLS. This encrypts your data transfers so your activity can’t be snooped on by an ISP or law enforcement. This is especially true if you don’t plan on using a VPN. Using SSL typically results in slightly slower downloads due to the time it takes to encrypt and decrypt data, but it’s worth it if you don’t want to be served settlement letters from copyright trolls. This setting is usually set by the user manually in the settings and will not be enabled by default.
Some Usenet providers offer VPNs as add-ons. VPNs can be used in lieu of or in combination with SSL connections for better privacy.
For optimal speeds, it’s usually best to subscribe to a Usenet provider that has servers located geographically closest to you. Usenet providers in the US and Europe, however, are susceptible to DMCA takedown requests, meaning they sometimes have to remove content at the request of the copyright holders. Providers in the Netherlands, however, are famously not subject to these laws, so if you find files missing on your local provider then you may consider going Dutch.
Obviously, the price of your subscription or block account should factor into your decision. Basic capped subscriptions with major providers typically start out at around $10 and go up from there.
VPNs, indexers, and newsreader apps are all cool extras that are included in some Usenet plans, but they are also all things you can set up on your own. These should be seen as bonuses and not the main criteria for your decision.
Read our reviews!
Once you have a shortlist of providers who you think make the cut, read our reviews to get a more in-depth, hands-on look at each one and find the best Usenet provider for your needs.