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“Blocked” Bitcoin Sites Spark Rumors of Government Interference in Venezuela

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On October 1, reports surfaced on the Bitcoin Venezuela Facebook Group, and later on r/bitcoin, about access blockages to many popular Bitcoin websites. According to this thread, some of the more popular Bitcoin websites that were blocked include coindesk.com, blockchain.info, blinktrade.com, surbitcoin.com, miningrigrentals.com, nicehash.com, btc-e.com, coinapult.com and coinbase.com.

These nine websites alone already greatly hinder the ability of Venezuelans to conduct any Bitcoin-related business, from using bitcoin wallets, to checking prices, to processing payments, to earning profits from mining. Ironically, bitcoiners were even prevented from accessing popular news sites as this very topic was making headlines.

There’s seems to be another side to the story, however. More vocal members Bitcoin Venezuela Group told BTC Manager directly that “CANTV is notoriously shitty, and they do block a lot of websites, but there’s no basis to suggest the ‘failure’ was meant to block Bitcoin sites.” According to group member Alexander Cordova, the outage “was due to some mishap with Cloudflare, but several other sites that have nothing to do with BTC were also rendered unreachable. IMHO there’s no news here other than some mistaken information going viral.”

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Group moderator Daniel Arraez said, “It could have been a faulty DNS Server, or a test ran out by CANTV; either case, the access to the bitcoin websites has been restored.”

Similar objections to recent reports of interference by the Venezuelan government were expressed by other forum members. Even the moderator of r/bitcoinVzla chimed in to say that the DNS servers at CANTV had “been misbehaving all day.”

The inability to access these websites might not have made such a big impact except for the fact that so many Venezuelans rely on CANTV for their ISP services.

CANTV is one of Venezuela’s oldest telephone service enterprises, having started almost a century ago in 1930. It was only after CANTV became renationalised in 2007 that it rose to the monopoly status it is known for. With a customer base of 16.3 million subscribers only a year after nationalization, some users CANTV provides broadband internet and telephone services grow on a yearly basis. With the majority of Venezuelans internet provided by CANTV, it is safe to assume that the majority of Bitcoin users also used CANTV, and were unable to access Bitcoin-related sites.

Regardless of whether the inability to access Bitcoin websites was a targeted attempt or purely coincidental, access to the websites through CANTV is now possible once more.