Digital Marketer and PR Specialist, Joseph Chukwube is the Founder of Digitage.net
The internet is known to be a goldmine for streaming videos. Alongside other contents that can be accessed via the internet, the interest in video streaming services is soaring both among the subscribers and service providers.
According to Digital TV Research, video streaming subscriptions globally will increase by 409 million between 2017 and 2023 to a total of 777 million.
Despite such growth and the global nature of the internet, we’re still victims of geography.
We believe in a myth that we’ve erased physical boundaries in the digital world and that the internet is a place where we can freely share and consume content, regardless of where we live.
However, with geo-restriction becoming a prevailing issue in many parts of the world, internet freedom is on a decline.
in regions like North-America and Australia, geo-restriction is strictly followed. Also, in places like Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Africa, there are no clear laws created around geo-restrictions.
Currently, the EU is the only place where legal action is actually being taken against geo-blocking methods.
In April 2018, the EU introduced digital media portability regulations, requiring the paid online content providers to provide a type of “roaming” within the EU (allowing a user from the UK to watch the same UK content in a different EU country).
What is Geo-Restriction and Why does it exist?
Geo-Restriction is a practice used by companies to block access to their content and services based on the user’s location.
A good example of geo-restriction in action is Netflix US. If you try to access the platform from some other region you will be redirected to the content library in your region rather than the US region.
This is possible because websites can see your location when you access their content.
Every single device connected to the internet has a dedicated IP address. By determining your IP address, the service providers reveal some details about you. Though it can’t reveal your exact location, it can tell that what region you’re browsing from.
Geo-restrictions are usually enforced because licensing regulations come into play while broadcasting content in every country. The content providers need to pay a huge amount to purchase licensing rights from an individual country. This system made sense during the days of television and radio, as countries have their specific channels with their own audience and budgets.
A recent Rethink Technology Research found that the global average viewing time for SVOD content will rise enough and will soon equal the amount of broadcast TV watched.
While a lot of media consumption has switched towards video streaming subscriptions, content licensing still adhere to the old norms and this is creating problems in the internet ecosystem.
When the world is so connected, there should be no reason that a person cannot access a website from a different country.
Luckily for users who are facing issues with geo-restrictions while streaming contents, most especially video contents, below are four ways to bypass these restrictions:
1. Mask Your IP Address with a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a cybersecurity measure that creates an encrypted connection over the internet from the device to the network.
It connects your network to a proxy server which masks your IP address and hides your real location. It then provides you with a virtual location.
VPN uses tunneling to hide your online data and make your activity almost untraceable.
VPNs work on the browser level and the system level. Meaning that every app on your system and mobile can change its IP address from the original one.
Every VPN provides different offerings at a different price. This means it’s important to be equipped with the VPN most suitable for your streaming platform.
There are many trustworthy lists of the best VPN services for every streaming platform. There are also guides on what features to look out for in a VPN before entrusting it with your data.
To find the right VPN for your streaming platform, simply search the web with the keyword, “Best VPN for” + “Name of the streaming platform.” A good example is the “Best VPNs for Kodi” search which presents different online resources alongside the 2019 list by TheBestVPN that presents a list of Kodi VPNs consisting of 12 well-tested service providers. ExpressVPN, NordVPN and CyberGhost take the ranks of top three VPNs that work great with Kodi.
A search with “Best VPN for Netflix,” “Best VPN for Hulu,” “Best VPN for YoutTube,” and similar, will also bring up a list of tested VPNs that go great with each streaming platform.
Major drawbacks of VPNs:
It doesn’t work with console and streaming devices like Chromecast, Xbox or Apple TV.Browsing speed may experience some slowdowns. However, this totally depends on the protocol and encryption of the VPN service.2. Use a Proxy Server
A proxy server acts as an intermediary between the client device such as a computer or mobile and another server from which the client is requesting the service.
It uses one of its IP address to access the page requested by the client.
Plus, it uses local caching to deliver faster responses to the cached websites — this means if it finds the requested page in the local cache of a previously visited page, it returns it to the user without forwarding the request to the web.
Major drawbacks of Proxy Server:
Some servers often become overcrowded and suffer huge downtime.With the proxy website, you cannot access the content behind the login wall such as on Netflix or Hulu.3. Use a Smart DNS Service
Smart DNS service works by simply changing the real DNS address that is assigned by your ISP.
Instead of changing the IP address, it overrides the selected DNS entries which reveal your geo-location. Your connection is quickly re-routed through a dedicated proxy server to a location where the website is based. This means you appear to be located in a country where viewing the restricted content is permitted.
Since it only re-routes specific details related to your geographical location, you don’t experience any loss in speed. Unlike VPN, it lacks encryption so you can enjoy your original ISP speed while accessing the geo-restricted content.
Major drawbacks of Smart DNS Services:
The list of pre-unblocked sites doesn’t contain every website of a particular region.Your ISP could block the Smart DNS using a transparent proxy.
4. Use the Tor Browser
Tor is a free-to-use service which allows people to browse the internet anonymously by hiding their IP address.
It uses the concept of Onion Routing in which the data is first encrypted and transmitted through multiple servers, called relays. Your data is transferred through multiple relays, thus it creates multi-layered encryption and ensures your identity is hidden.
Every encrypted layer is decrypted at the successive relay, and the remaining data is transmitted to any random relay until it reaches to its final destination.
Major drawbacks of TOR:
Since the number of relays on the TOR network is around 6000–7000 and the users are approximately 2 million, it means you often experience slow internet speed while browsing.TOR can also be blocked by the government.
Since geo-restriction can be applied because your IP address is visible on the internet, the best possible way is to hide your IP while streaming the geo-blocked content.
Sticking to VPNs and Smart DNS services are a more reliable solution than Proxy websites and TOR as they are more secure and your browsing speed is less likely to be affected.