Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

2.8. Can I use the Internet through a bulletin board system?

You may also be able to access the Internet using a local bulletin board system (BBS). This is a dubious proposition at best for many reasons. Although there are tens of thousands of fine bulletin board systems around the world, only about 20 percent of them offer some degree of Internet access. Of those, fewer still offer complete and reliable Internet access.

Finding a reliable BBS for accessing the Internet is truly a crap shoot. Anyone can run a bulletin board: the system operator behind the BBS may be a seasoned professional or a 12-year-old hacking away in his bedroom. Some BBSes are professional stable operations, others are more fleeting. Some charge for access, some are free. Some have dozens of telephone lines; many have only one or two. Most BBSes are not dedicated to providing Internet access; most of the time, BBSes have their own conferences for chatting and files for downloading. Internet access, if available, usually comes second to the board's own community.

Note: Of course, in this day and age the 12-year-old could also be a seasoned professional!

Some BBSes are part of networks other than the Internet (such as FidoNet or OneNet.) Don't be fooled by imitations! Demand Internet by name. :-) Not all types of bulletin boards can offer Internet access, and those that do usually can't offer the full gamut of Internet services. (Several types of bulletin board software can provide Internet e-mail and Usenet newsgroups, but lack programs such as Telnet and FTP, with which you can access other systems in real time.) See Figure 2.3.


Figure 2.3. Reading Usenet postings using a FirstClass BBS.(FirstClass is a brand of graphical bulletin board system that can offer e-mail and Usenet.)

For these and other reasons, accessing the Internet via a bulletin board system is not a reliable choice for any but the most casual user. Stable and reliable BBSes are out there. If you can find one, great, but this can take some real digging.

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