at least in Poland there are free. and for my clients i have nntpcache'd
news from Gda?sk University.

Actually, in most parts of the world, news are still freely available
with many ISPs (you may have to ask them explicitly), except for
alt.binaries.* which are quite bandwidth intensive.

i'm connected to university network (commercially, not as a student ;), i have all their service included in price. alt.binaries.* too, don't know if all of them as i don't use it.

Your typical small ISP would rather save the bandwidth it takes to
transfer all articles, esp. if only a fraction of them are accessed

nntpcache is exactly for this. it's like squid, just for nntp

it's worth even with 1 nntp user, and it takes 5 minutes to configure.
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