Early this year (it’s 2016 as I write this), Netflix announced it was planning on cracking down on unblocking DNS, proxy and VPN users attempting to access content from other countries. Living in the UK and being addicted to the US Netflix library, that caused me a bit of stress as you can imagine. I wasn’t willing to give up all those shows that for seemingly arbitrary reasons were not available here.
Thankfully, as I found out, even though it did get a harder to watch Netflix by using a VPN (which is my preferred method), it is still very much possible. If you were as stressed about this as I was, I hope this little write-up will alleviate some of that.
As an aside, Hulu, another streaming service I frequent, has also been cracking down on the use of VPNs for an even longer time than Netflix. If you visit Hulu using a connection to one of the larger VPN services, you will be informed by Hulu that its library is only available to residents of the US. So what can a streaming addict like myself do?
How Proxies And VPNs Are Blocked
Let’s start with this in case you aren’t up to speed yet. Many individuals can get around geo-blocking (the dreaded “this show isn’t available in your country” messages) with proxy and VPN services. When you use any of those services, your traffic gets routed through another country (for example, the US, where the show is available) so that Hulu and Netflix think that is where you live. Typically, a proxy or VPN service will use only a few shared IP addresses that will be shared by all their users.
For resourceful services like Netflix and Hulu, detecting and then blocking this handful of proxy or VPN IPs should be relatively straightforward. According to the Fastest VPN Guide Twitter feed, all they need to do is track where their customers are connecting from and pay attention to users who have accounts in various parts of the world that appear to be connecting from the same IP addresses (especially in a different country from which they live in). Then they can then easily blacklist those IP addresses. Once that happens, the VPN service will switch over to a new set IP addresses. Hulu and Netflix will notice that eventually and then block those once again. It becomes an endless game of hide and seek.
So ultimately, Hulu, Netflix or any other service you would like to connect to doesn’t have any way of actually detecting whether or not you connect to them through a virtual private network or proxy. Instead, they just block IP addresses that they know many people share.
The Solution – Get A Private VPN IP Address
Dedicated VPN IP
To stop continuously getting locked out, all you need to do is stop making use of shared VPNs. Get a unique IP address to use with your VPN instead. There are several different ways of going about this.
You can continue to use a commercial VPN service, but use it with a unique IP address. This is offered by some providers for an additional fee. Google for services using terms like “static IP,” “dedicated IP,” or “dedicated IP address.” Getting an IP that’s unique to you will get you around the problem and is probably the easiest solution to implement.
I haven’t personally tested all VPN providers, but companies like Hide My Ass!, TorGuard and PureVPN all offer the static IP option. A good review site or their Facebook Page are also a good source for this kind of VPN information. If Netflix ever starts to crack down on VPNs seriously, I’m sure this feature will be given much more of an advertising push by providers.
Host a VPN at Home When Travelling
If you already live in the US and have access to the good Netflix (lucky you) but are traveling abroad, you can host a VPN server using your home Internet connection. Then, when you use it to watch Netflix, it would appear as though you were watching it from your house. That trick works in other countries as well, though, given the show selection, I’m not sure it matters. Your upload bandwidth will limit you, however since home Internet upload speeds tend not to be that high.
Use a Hosting Service to Put up Your Own VPN
If you don’t have enough upload bandwidth from your home, you can use a web hosting service and install your VPN server there. You can use any web hosting service as long as you know what you are doing. If you’re not super tech savvy, try to find a web host which provides you with a graphical interface.
Realistically speaking, it isn’t something for an average user. It’s for individuals who are comfortable with getting their own server software set up and then maintaining it as needed.
This would result in you having a private VPN server of your own that was hosted at a data center which most likely would offer you more upload bandwidth than you could ever have at home. In some situations, you might even have a sufficient amount of bandwidth for several individuals, so you could potentially share this solution with family or friends. Also, it may be less expensive than having a dedicated VPN service. On the downside, it is more work intensive (at least to set up).
It’s Far From Perfect, but It’s the Best We Got
There are several different reasons why these solutions are far from perfect. First of all, there isn’t any way of getting a free VPN, which means you will need to spend some money (usually in the $5 to $10 per month range). You will also need to shell out extra money for a dedicated IP address.
If you are used to your VPN service offering servers in several different regions so that you can switch between the various country-specific Netflix libraries with one click, you will be disappointed. When you have a dedicated VPN of your own with a dedicated IP address, it’s location is tied to one particular country, and you will only be provided access to service in there (though if that country is the US, I say that’s plenty).
On the flip side, these solutions will keep working, since there isn’t any real way of entirely blocking VPN traffic. It will just be somewhat more expensive and elaborate. VPN and Proxy services can keep playing their hide and seek games with Netflix and Hulu, and constantly move to new IPs. However, you can free yourself from these hassles by getting your own dedicated VPN IP.
The truth of the matter is, making legitimate content impossible or harder to access legally pushes individuals towards piracy. The success Netflix has had in obtaining subscribers in the UK as well as other countries that have weak content libraries, in large part, they used to ignore VPNs and look the other way. Hopefully, they won’t keep making things even harder for us in the future. That would take my stress to another level, and I don’t think I can take it.