Wednesday 29 June 2016

Geo-Blocking, and how to get around it

The term used to restrict what content you can watch based on where you are is geo-blocking, and it's what these companies do to enforce their content licensing restrictions. These restrictions are based on revenue derived from the license to broadcast to specific areas.

If you subscribe to a streaming service like Netflix you will find yourself only able to access the content licensed for the country you are in. In my case the content for Canada isn't always what I want to view, the US catalog is much larger.

Other services such as Amazon Prime, Zattoo, Hulu, HBO Now, etc aren't even available in Canada, which borders on ridiculous. I have an Amazon Prime account, why shouldn't I be able to watch the Amazon Prime shows that are included with my subscription.

So how can you access content from another region? This is where services that provide VPN (Virtual Private Network) or DNS masking options come in to play. Recently Netflix was in the news for simply banning any connections to their service from VPN providers.

There are other solutions out there such as Hidemyass and Unblock-us, however these often have restrictions on what devices they support. If your device isn't on the list, you're simply out of luck.

Personally I've used GetflixUnblock-US , and Unlocator. By far the best of these 3 services has proven to be Getflix.

Getflix are so confident you'll love their service they don't require a credit card for their 14-day fully functional trial, just sign up and go. (Note to other providers, if you'd like me to evaluate your offering use the Contact form to reach me.) Unlocator's technical support was terrible, and Unblock-US doesn't support a lot of devices, so I suggest people not consider them.

As soon as you log in Getflix has a pop-up that lets you know once you are properly configured to use their service. If you aren't configured the pop-up lets you know there is a problem and their help file will walk you through the simple set-up.

The Getflix control panel is intuitive and easy to use. It lets you pick different regions for different services, so you could have Amazon believing you are in the USA while Netflix believes you are in Canada.

Most different unblocking services seem to have a price point betwee $35 - $50/year. Watch for sales when they pop up, I was able to get a 30yr subscription to Getflix for under $40 USD.

Until the content providers have their thinking catch up to modern technology and the realization that trying to limit rights based on geography is a losing battle it's going to be a cat-and-mouse game. Undoubtedly there is more profit to be made by universal licensing in the long term, but it's going to take some time for them to get there.

As an aside, the unblocking can also work for different app stores, so you may be able to buy apps on your smartphone or tablet that normally would be blocked for various reasons.

Go ahead and give it a shot, it's free to try, and both Unlocator and Unblock-US will each give you a week to use their services before you buy. There's my gift to you, 2 weeks of unrestricted access to content.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

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