OpenDNS not available in France and Portugal: why not and how to resolve this

FlashStart, the European alternative to OpenDNS/Cisco Umbrella

OpenDNS, the DNS resolution service acquired by Cisco in 2015 and now Cisco Umbrella, has chosen to make itself unreachable for users in France and Portugal since June 28, 2024.

The decision is the consequence of the order imposed by the French Court to block 117 domains that broadcast matches illegally, following the 2023 legal action of the French broadcaster Canal+ with Google, Cloudflare and OpenDNS regarding the violation of article L.333-10 of the French Sports Code.

1. What is OpenDNS

With the intentions of its founder, the hacker David Ulevitch who launched it in 2006, the idea was to offer a service for resolving domain names in IP addresses that could not be controlled by governments, military bodies and public institutions to ensure maximum freedom of navigation. After peaking at one million users in 2007, the service floated in the market of similar solutions until Cisco’s acquisition in 2015.

In 2009, OpenDNS, which began as a free consumer service, offered a broader, paid-for business offering called Umbrella, which is now part of Cisco’s offering. It should also be noted that, to monetize a service that was initially open to all for free, Ulevitch chose to host digital ads on the pages generated by the unresolved queries.

Over the years, Ulevitch has introduced more and more new features to the service, from an anti-phishing filter (PhishTank) to content filtering and, at the time of Cisco’s acquisition, it was also a comprehensive browsing protection service.

During these almost 10 years of Cisco Umbrella’s coexistence with a large group of competitors such as FlashStart, the reputation of the service has been steadily declining, right up to the point that on July 31st, 2022, Cisco discontinued the program for Cisco OpenDNS MSP partners, forcing its channel to migrate to the Cisco Secure Managed Service Provider. In practice, MSPs (Managed Service Providers) have not been able to enter purchase contracts related to the OpenDNS service for two years now.

2. What the French Tribunal requires

As has already happened in several other countries, including Italy where “pezzotto” has been on alert for some time, France is also at war with sites that broadcast pirate streaming of sporting events, in particular football matches. In Italy, for example, the government has introduced the national anti-piracy platform Piracy Shield, which automatically blocks sites (within half an hour) that are reported for illegal streaming.

Since December 2023, AGCOM, the Italian Communications Authority, has overseen the management of Piracy Shield and, just over a year later, the results are already alarming. AGCOM, in fact, wants to update the service by making it possible to unblock domains that are no longer active but still present in the list, thus making room for other sites. This is because Piracy Shield has a maximum limit in the number of IPs to be blocked, but most importantly, it is because the administrator of a blacked-out pirate site will take only ten minutes to open up another such site.

In France, the phenomenon came to light after Canal+ denounced 117 pirate sites. The French providers promptly carried out the blackout, but in France illegal services continued to be used through public DNS such as those provided by Google and Cloudflare, so blocking seemed impossible.

However, Canal* sued Google, Cloudflare and OpenDNS and the Court of France issued an order in which it also obliged third-party DNS services to block access to pirated IPs and, above all, to put in place an automatic IP blocking process on request. The French court was joined by the Portuguese court who, with an order based on Article 210-G(3), asked for exactly the same things.

3. DNS Decisions and the FlashStart’s alternative

While Cloudflare has not yet spoken out and Google having no problem complying with the French court order, OpenDNS has stood in the way and cut off access to the service in France and Portugal.

The decision should be read in terms of consistency: for a service that has always promoted freedom of navigation and democracy on the Internet, blocking access to certain IPs is an unacceptable form of censorship. But the suspicion is that Cisco is taking the opportunity to continue with the divestment of OpenDNS.


Fair or not, censorship or legality, the fact is that users, companies and ISPs using Cisco Umbrella in France and Portugal will have to opt for an alternative browsing protection service. The choice however, although theoretically vast, is not easy.

FlashStart is not only much faster than Cisco Umbrella but also a lot of other navigation protection services on a global level: the independent benchmark DNSPerf!dns-resolvers places Umbrella three positions after FlashStart in terms of performance.

FlashStart is appreciated in more than 160 Countries worldwide for its simplicity as well as its technical support that is always available and highly efficient 24/7. Also, FlashStart DNS is capable of filtering roughly two billion website queries and protects the browsing of 25 million users every day, it is present in over ten thousand businesses, schools and public administrations and is delivered, including on a service basis, by 700 certified partners.

Here are seven FlashStart DNS distinctive points:

  1. Frequent updating of blacklists: FlashStart checks 200 thousand new sites per day.
  2. Guaranteed low latency (latency is the time between request and access).
  3. 200 categories of malicious sites and geoblocking to isolate dangerous countries.
  4. Use of artificial intelligence to improve blacklist quality and latency.
  5. Ease of configuration and customization.
  6. Native integration with Microsoft’s Active Directory to speed up the work of system administrators in schools, institutions, and SMBs.
  7. Worldwide LAN protection and roaming on end points through the Anycast network.

>> FlashStart protects you from a wide range of threats and blocks access to malicious sites → Try it now

You can activate the FlashStart® Cloud protection on any sort of Router and Firewall to secure desktop and mobile devices and IoT devices on local networks.

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Valerio MarianiB2B IT Journalist & Digital content
I am dedicated to providing companies with in-depth analysis and high-quality digital content to help them remain competitive in the technology marketplace. I am here to provide clear insights and effective communication strategies for business success.

View all posts by Valerio Mariani

I am dedicated to providing companies with in-depth analysis and high-quality digital content to help them remain competitive in the technology marketplace. I am here to provide clear insights and effective communication strategies for business success.
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