Wednesday, February 21, 2018

By-Passing Geo-Restrictions: How VPNs make movies available for everyone

As much as the internet is free, the freedom that comes with it is not enjoyable by everyone. In this worldwide global village, several organizations and companies have come with virtual boundaries in terms of how users access, share, upload and view content. These virtual limits are some type of discrimination, and most of them are based on the location one is. i.e. there is some content you can’t access when you’re in your country, and there are others you can. A good example is streaming sites such as Netflix; it only allows you to watch what’s available in your country even though you don’t like it. So how do you get past that and stream whatever you want?

Geo-blocking and how it works

In order to access and stream whatever you want, you need to bypass geo-blocks. For you to do that, you must know what it is and how it works. Geo-blocking or simply geo-restriction is a method or measure in which you can only access some part of the internet content based on your location. This is what most streaming services employ when delivering content to their subscribers. The problem arises when let’s say you are on vacation in a certain country and you will have to watch what’s available their disregarding your subscription. You might be wondering how the services know your location, well its simple, let’s see.

For geo-restrictions to work, your location must be known. Location identification is easy when one is using a mobile device. This is because they have a GPS that pinpoints your location. But on the internet, the GPS might be used at times. Mostly, organizations use your internet identifier which is unique for every device. This identifier is called Internet Protocol (IP) address. The IP address works with your country’s top-level domain to identify your location. i.e. if you’re in UK, you may have in your browser address. When you access the internet, the server knows the location of the request and serves accordingly.

Why Do Content restrictions exist?

It all comes down to what is known as money. Like markets, geo-blocking gives rise to content restriction which in turn gives rise to segmenting. Segmenting makes it easier for companies and organizations to adjust to the preferences of their audience and make more money while at it. In terms of making money, segmenting may favor home customers and extort foreigners, sometimes it might be vice versa but on rare cases, i.e. renting a Hollywood movie online let’s say in the US might be cheaper than renting the same in a different part of the world.

In other cases, geo restrictions are brought into effect by licensing agreements. If let’s say a UK media company wants its content to be only shown or aired in the UK, then streaming sites such as Netflix must adhere to the agreement. To do that, they must employ the content restrictions to other customers who visits Netflix and are not located in the United Kingdom.

In terms of licensing, Geo-blocking makes sense. But at times it doesn’t matter especially when it comes to e-commerce, i.e. renting a movie. All it does is enable extortion due to price discrimination based on location. And for that reason, you are allowed to bypass these restrictions and stream anything you want. The best part, the law is unclear if circumventing these restrictions is a crime. Unless the laws in your country state otherwise, let’s see how one can bypass and get rid of the geo blocks.

How to by-pass Geo-restrictions

Now that we’ve known how geo-blocking works, circumventing it is easier. All one needs to do is to make sure to use the IP address of the country he/she wants to stream the content from. If you want to stream US content, you use a US IP address. There is a number of tools all over the internet that can help with that. Some even offer to change your DNS.

The popular known way or at least it was popular was the use of a proxy server, and they still exist. The server fools the services you want to access and hence unblock any restricted content. As much as its beneficial, some proxy servers are not reliable, and your information might be leaked. The servers also store a cache of your session, and this might include logs. Logs are not good in case of a lawsuit. For DNS, you are also worried about the security since you might not know to which server your information is being directed to and sometimes they might fail.

To avoid such fiascos, there’s one alternative you can use, and you won’t have to worry a bit. That alternative is the use of VPNs, virtual private networks. Unless you’re in China or Russia, a VPN is a must when you want to stream and by-pass any geo-restrictions online. Some VPNs also bypass your ISP restrictions and allow you to use Peer to peer clients at the same time giving you security. The best part, the right VPN will have worldwide high-speed servers and you are assured of your privacy as they don’t keep any logs. Check for for best VPNs.

How VPNs work?

VPNs are made of many secure tunnels that redirect your data to a secure remote or physical server. The encryption involved is so hard to crack in that your ISP won’t know what you are accessing. At the same time, the remote servers connect you to the services you want to access, i.e. Netflix. Netflix then thinks this client is from the (specified) location and it gives access to the contents of that particular country. But before you use a VPN ensure you have a good internet connection regarding speed. This is because VPNs will reduce the speed due to the encryptions involved and this may lead to buffering problems. A 5mbps to 10mbps internet speed is fine for a single user. Below are simple steps of how a VPN bypasses geo-restriction.

  1. The moment you launch your VPN and connect to a particular server, all traffic is encrypted.
  2. The traffic then appears to come from the server location you chose by using its IP address.

If your device doesn’t support a VPN, look for supported routers to protect your whole network.

Bob Buskirk
the authorBob Buskirk
About 10 years of computer experience. Been messing around with electronics since I was 5, got into computers when I was in highschool, been modding them ever since then. Very interested in how things work and their design.
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