The Destruction of Venezuela’s infrastructure by the revolution, one step at a time

February 5, 2011

In the 1980’s phone service in Venezuela was the pits. It got to the point that to get a call through, you had to try two or three times before you even got a dial tone. If your phone stopped working, sometimes you had to wait months before the line was fixed. If you had no phone, you had to wait sometimes years before you got service.

Then in 1991, the company was privatized, part of it sold to GTE, later taken over by Verizon, and the service started improving.I still recall the night of Chavez’ coup in 1992, I connected to the Internet to a network of Venezuelans on then nascent Internet called Atarraya and stayed connected all night. I was afraid that if I disconnected my modem, I would not be able to get a dial tone again.

The arrival of cell phones helped, the company go a new revenue stream, which it used to fix up the system. Then the Internet came, first dial=up and later DSL, called ABA here, another new strong revenue stream for a company which now even had competition.  In 1997 the remainder shares of CANTV were sold to the public, both in Venezuela and abroad and the company’s stock listed in the New York Stock Exchange. By the time Chavez arrived in power, the company gave good service and was profitable.

In late 2006, Mexican Carlos Slim tried to take over the company for $21 a share. As the regulator considered the tender, Hugo Chavez feeling like the rich Dictator of Venezuela ordered that the Government buy the company. Rather than spend the money on housing or hospitals, Chavez spent two billion US$ buying the company to satisfy his unlimited desire for power. Amazingly, he offered $17.6 per share, less than what Slim was offering, and one investment fund in the US, Brandes, still has an arbitration case pending because of this at the World Bank.

Move forward three years later after the nationalization and we have come full circle. After only three years, CANTV’s service has begun deteriorating. My own phone stopped working about two or three weeks ago and every time I report it, I am told about a different date for my line to be back. Right now the target date is February 18th. , making it sound like the old CANTV. I am not alone, I have heard lots of people facing similar problems for the first time in a decade and  half. (I ahve asked that I don’t be charged the service for all this time and have yet to find a way to ahve this done at CANTV)

While I have no voice line, I still have DSL, which is a little surprising, I thought it came over the same pair of copper wires. Except that it seems as if it gets worse every day. Right now for example, this is what I get if I do a speed test at

This is actually much better than it has been in the last three days. Of course, it is abominable service, I pay for over triple that download speed and the upload speed is just laughable. In fact, the post is likely to take a while to upload, so instead of saving the draft as I write and correct, I am copying it so as not to lose my work.

Yesterday the service got even worse, my download speed was about 20% of that above, but I learned from Twitter that this was generalized. I was unable to read El Universal last night and the New York Times page took forever to download. I did manage to read it only once. People in Twitter reported all sorts of different problems, depending on where they were.

But as local newspaper El Nacional reported this problem, the Government’s attitude was to deny this was happening. It got so laughable that a former Minister of Telecommunications denied this was taking place, not only denying that the problem existed, but assertively saying that this was a media campaign to manipulate opinion on internet services in Venezuela. He even went further, specifically blaming Alberto Ravell, formerly of Globovision for the campaign, saying:

“Ravell is mounting a campaign of manipulation on the internet services, launching rumors to measure the reaction to them”

Curiously, CANTV reported today that the problem had been fixed in a press release, saying that it was found at one of the distribution points for the DSL service in the country.Only two or three times in the last four years has Internet service suffered like this.

We truly have come full circle under Chavez. A service we had taken for granted like telecommunications, has now gone the same route as water, electricity, infrastructure. Much like the Government does with everything, the solution is to distract, deny, escape responsibility. Billions of dollars wasted in buying out companies only to later run them into the ground, wasting precious funds that could be used to solve the myriad of problems that people face, from infrastructure, to health, to poverty, to education.

It is just another step in the destruction of the country’s infrastructure by the revolution, as the Chief Terminator moves on to other problems he has ignored for the last twelve years. Unfortunately, this will be more work (and money!) whenever the reconstruction of the country begins anew or will become another promise by Chavez, if he stays in power, the day the CANTV problem becomes so general, that people begin to complain massively.

It’s happened before in the pretty revolution…


26 Responses to “The Destruction of Venezuela’s infrastructure by the revolution, one step at a time”

  1. My brother suggested I might like this blog. He used to be totally right.
    This submit truly made my day. You cann’t believe simply how so much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  2. m_astera Says:

    “i would just not pay those bills. i would even demand some months for free after they have fixed it.”

    Jajajajaja. Obviously written by someone who has never been to Venezuela.

    Also keep in mind, you are dealing with a government owned company. When did you ever get a refund or a month free from a government entity?

    I have a friend who signed up for CANTV cable, TV and internet. Every time the power went out he had to call a private tech to get the internet working again. After about the third time he quit using it and told CANTV to cancel the service. Some months later he found out he was still being billed, so he went to the office and again told them to cancel the service. The office drones told him that he had to pay the back bills before they could cancel the service. I assume they are still adding to the bill.

  3. Kepler Says:

    Perhaps GB was high, no need to Speed up that much 🙂

    And now Cuban oppos are reporting strange things happening on their side.

  4. Nunne Says:

    0.46mbits download.. probably the ultra sucky upload that screws up the download as well.

    i guess someone is drying their clothes somewhere on your phone line 😉 or perhaps powering a low energy light bulb with the 40 or so volts you get out of it 😛

    joke a side.. that is terrible! what does the contract state in forms of speed? i would just not pay those bills. i would even demand some months for free after they have fixed it.

    as a contrast, when i download something and the speed dips below 80mbits i just shut it off and download it from another location. thats how lazy i have become with our internet infrastructure here.

  5. GB Says:

    Think you’re right ….. Should have stayed in school a bit longer. Lol

  6. geronl Says:

    GB seems to have up and down load confused. heh.

  7. GB Says:

    Never thought to test our speed but here in sunny Birmingham . . . Upload speed is 16.7 and download is 0.67 which I guess is ok.

    By the way, I think I saw someone stating the student riots in England was about poor students. As far as I know the biggest users of iPhones, Blackberry and iPads is the students. what the big fuss was about was a government hand out that they had become accustomed too. As soon as any government starts to hand out money to kids you start to twist the relationship between gevernment and the governed.

    It would seem the V government just can’t stop giving.

  8. Bill Says:

    Just a guess, but since they probably can’t get fired, they don’t much care if your phone works or not. Maybe it is taking them longer than usual to get the recording equipment for your line hooked up.

  9. Caracola Says:

    Something else might be happening though, aside from the technical ingredient: I heard from a friend who had been working for CANTV for the past 5 years (she just quit) that the company was making their employees to do “community service” as part of their jobs. They were forcing them to go to “barrios” to paint and things like that, with the risk of being fired if refusing to do so.
    So I wonder how many effective hours a week are the employees really working for a full salary?
    Shouldn’t the “community services” be left as an alternative for those that can’t pay for fines (speeders, for example) instead of compromising the productivity of CANTV?

  10. Tom Leon Says:

    Perhaps if someone went to the following location
    Compania Anonima Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela (CANTV)
    Avenida Libertador, Centro Nacional de Telecomunicaciones,
    Edificio NEA, Piso 3
    Caracas, Venezuela 1010
    and removed all of the wiretaps that Hugo and his buddies have on peoples lines the service would improve. Some will say wire taps do not exist, keep believing that fairy tale.

    Wake up people and take back your country.

  11. megaescualidus Says:

    Morse code

  12. moctavio Says:

    That’s only been happening the last month. Sometimes I don’t even surf anymore, it’s too slow. Morse code may be an option 🙂

  13. geronl Says:

    I had no idea your internet service was that bad. Is there anything left for Chavez to ruin? Probably better not to answer lest they read it and get ideas.

    For comparisons mine here in Texas:

    Okay, to save you the trouble its 14.30 download and 0.48 upload. In the US this is considered somewhat fast, sometimes I am able to get upwards of 19 download but the upload doesn’t seem to get above 0.48 no matter what.

    I really appreciate your blog, I didn’t have any idea how hard it was for you to keep updating it. Should we learn morse code if it keeps getting worse?

  14. Kepler Says:

    I was having trouble accessing VTV and CNE in the last days. I thought something like “CIA hackers are trying to bring down the Revolution” 🙂

  15. megaescualidus Says:

    Telecomm infrastructure, like all other infrastructure, is not a priority in the Chavez Government. However, it is a key component towards data manipulation, which the Government does every time there’s an election. So again, the Telecomm instractucture and its fuctioning may not be required for it to be maintained, let alone just work at mediocre level for the regular citizen and companies, but during elections, the few connections that are used (as compared to all that are regularly utilized by the county at large) are of critical for Esteban to keep himself and the PSUV in power. This is truly a pattern in the Chavez Government. Venezuela’s infrastructure at large is crumbling, except for those bits critical for him to keep himself in power.

  16. Roger Says:

    For the moment I tend to buy the comment that CAVTV does not have the money to buy parts in many cases very expensive and not repairable in a place like Venezuela. Also, repairs often require Field Engineers to come in at 1200 USD or so plus expenses. I don’t think that the government wants the digital network in Venezuela crash and make not only the hated capitalists but also their own folk doing their import export business go back to TELEX and FAX not to mention Shortwave Radio to the to the oil fields.
    My question is, how is the wireless phone network holding up? This is where most Venezuelans (all classes) are communicating. Disrupt that and there will be tire burnings in the Barrio.

  17. Greedy Capitalist Says:

    I see a lot of similarities between dictators (left and right wing) and wife beaters and rapists. It’s all about feeling control and power. What makes things even worse, the more a dictator fails at running a country the more he needs to compensate. This usually leads to a death spiral that ends in violence.

  18. Nedsram2000 Says:

    Interesting that on the page of 185 countries Venezuela takes position of 168 for download speed and 164 for upload speed. Not much further to fall to the bottom.
    When our phone went out recently CANTV said that it would take a month at least to fix because they didn’t have permission to buy the parts that were needed in the central. A day later the phone came back on. I didn’t know what to make of that.

  19. loroferoz Says:

    I have to say, however, that in the two occasions when DLS/phone service went down at my house, CANTV contractors were prompt in responding and fixed the problem. However, the download/upload velocity in my DSL line make yours, miguel, seem relativistic.

    But let me repeat it once again. So called Socialist Revolutions are not that much about economics (they would bother to learn about that) and certainly not about better management (who are they fooling?). Not about inequality (there being other, less onerous ways to “close the gap”). Not about social transformation (or they would actually emphasize education).

    It’s not so much about anything but a pure and almost pathological need to control, to have power to shut down activities.

    Call me cynical, but I have come to believe, for all nations, eras, and systems of government that when centralized, monopolic control is requested (and granted), the real objective is (or ends up being), well, control, for masturbational satisfaction or for less pathological but almost as egotistic goals.

    Your ability to communicate quickly in telecommunications, the possibility of reaching emergency and other needed services in a communication utility, economic efficiency and profit for a commercial enterprise, all of these are trivial or liabilities… Next to their ability to exclusively control communications and to build infrastructure to connect, not to places and nets users might want to contact, but to tyrannies like Cuba and Iran.

  20. A_Antonio Says:

    Slow communications are more easy to control and to crack.

  21. Armagh Man Says:

    Make one wonder what that wonderful subsea fibre-optic cable that Hugo installed for free to Cuba will do for Cuba or indeed Venezuela? Not much I guess except those in the inner circle will be able to watch You Tube, Baseball and porn, sorry world affairs.

  22. jeffry house Says:

    I had not known that it is so hard to keep this blog running, and foryou to keep in the loop!

    Thanks for making the effort!

  23. jau Says:

    I am convinced that all is part of a plan to destroy the country, and make it like Cuba, so people like you dont have another choice but to leave or live in the middle ages. Something will eventually get you, if its not insecuritiy, is inflation, or seniat, or bad services, or traffic, or water, or food shortages, and the list goes on.

    In short, these people are destroying the country on purpose.

  24. boz Says:

    For a number of months here in Nicaragua I had Claro, which is owned by Carlos Slim. The technical and customer service they provide sounds a lot like CANTV under Hugo Chavez, it was terrible. Internet outages for days at a time. They never fix things when they say they will And they shut down the cable system during every Daniel Ortega cadena, even though they aren’t officially required to by law.

    So, you aren’t missing much by Slim not taking over.

  25. Ode007 Says:

    thank you host …..

    CAN(o)TV would be more accurate. The majority of them have no idea what customer service actually means nor are they aware of the different services provided. They come across as if they have had their asses glued to the chair and as long as their asses are red, the chair is theirs for life. They can’t even tell you what the codes on the monthly statement represent. The only office on the Island available is in a major mall. You have to start the line up at 8am for the mall door so you can then go stand in another line up at the door of CANoTV and wait until they open. You walk in, explain your problem and take a number. This is now the 3rd line up. For the first half hour the non “workers” are busy talking, putting away purses, texting on the mobiles while we all watch them. You
    finally get to one of them ( only 8 desks and only 4 actually work ) explain your problem and the answer is….. “ we can’t help you hear you must call customer service in Caracas”. So what the hll was the reception desk for? I then spent 3 days on my MOBILE trying to get to customer service at various times of the day. On the 3rd day I finally got through. I explained that the Modem was PURCHASED not a rental I have receipt and that they had been charging me for DOUBLE modem Rental for almost
    a year and WIDEBand unlimited service that I had not received since I also had paperwork that showed I had suspended the service on a specific date. Well, I ended up on hold 5 times, the line was disconnected on their side 2 times and despite my timing the hold times, taking down names and dates I could never get back to the original person I spoke to and had to explain over and over and over again.

    My solution … I went back to the office of CANoTV on the Island. I made copies of all my paperwork stuck my modem in the box waited until the office had standing room only and took a number. I waited my turn and gave it one more shot. ( keep in mind that while your at the desk everyone waiting can hear what is said ) I ended up paying the bill (2,200 and something Bs) I cancelled all of the services put the modem on the ground in front of the desk, took my hammer out of my purse and did a number on the modem right there in front of everyone. I received some laughs, some applause and a lot of satisfaction. Now it’s inter. Real wideband and a mobile.

    It will take yearssssssss to fix the attitudes and teach the meaning of Customer Services.

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