One of the major worries for Bitcoin users all around the world, comes in the form of internet service providers blocking ports used by Bitcoin software clients. Just last week, it looked like US ISP AT&T had effectively started blocking ports used by Bitcoin software. Although these actions were refuted by company representatives, is this something we should worry about, or not?
AT&T Not Actively Blocking Bitcoin Software Ports
No ISP will ever randomly start blocking certain ports unless properly communicating this to their customers. On an individual level, blocking ports may occur if there are discrepancies occurring on a regular basis. For example, some ISP’s will block any port between 1000 and 8000 for reasons only known to them.
In the case of US provider AT&T, a lot of people were complaining about the issues they experienced when using port 8333. For those of you who have no idea about the significance of this port, 8333 is used by the Bitcoin software when running a full Bitcoin node to support the network. locking that specific port would make a node inaccessible.
While it would come as no surprise to find out that major ISP’s are actively monitoring Bitcoin traffic, we are still quite a way away from actively shutting down these ports. According to a post on the Bitcoin developers mailing list, ISP’s could very well take an aggressive stance and start censoring Bitcoin and its associated nodes.
To prove a point, someone allegedly spotted hidden firewalls in the AT&T U-Verse DVR devices. For non-existing AT&T customers, it is important to note that a customer’s internet connection is routed through these DVR’s, which also contains a firewall. As you would come to expect from an ISP, turning off this firewall is not something companies will be happy to oblige to.
Whenever a customer is accessing the Internet through an ISP, they are effectively using the company’s hardware and software to do so. Considering these firewalls are put in place by company engineers, ISP’s have a valid right to refuse to turn off any firewalls within their ecosystem. This includes the devices bringing the Internet to the customers.
Conspiracy Theories are Not Necessary
Bearing this information in mind, several people automatically jump to the conclusion that ISP’s can censor Bitcoin nodes whenever they feel like. Granted, that is something that could potentially happen. But on the other hand, doing so would not be in the best interest of any ISP. Furthermore, nearly every ISP in the world allows port forwarding on their firewalls, giving customers plenty of options to actively forward ports they rely on.
Spouting conspiracy theories is far easier than actively looking into things and figuring out a solution to the problem. However, this topic raises a valid point regarding the power ISP’s hold over their customers, even though this is not exactly a secret. Individual users can take back control of their internet connection by putting in a little effort.
Bitcoin offers the same privilege, by letting users take back their financial power and determine how and when their money is being used and accessed. Doing so requires participation for the end user and not just complaints when things are not clear from the beginning.
Source: Bitcoin Developers Mailing List
Images courtesy of AT&T, Shutterstock