You may have noticed that certain online content is limited to specific countries or regions. It’s possible you’ve heard of companies like Amazon charging different prices for products depending on the buyer’s country of origin. You have undoubtedly heard of nations not allowing their citizens access to some sites. These are all examples of the technique known as geoblocking.
Protecting Licensing Deals
At its most harmless, geoblocking is a tool content providers can employ to limit access to programs and films. This way a movie studio, for example, can sell rights to a movie in theatres in one country and to online distributors in another. For example, Paramount released their film “Annihilation” in the US and China in theatres while making it available in other countries on Netflix.
Geoblocking ensured that American and Chinese consumers would have to go to the movies to see the film while their UK counterparts could watch it from their living rooms. But, geoblocking has a darker side, as well.
It Gets Worse
While movie studios use geoblocking as a harmless tool to guard profits, some countries use it to stifle their citizens.
North Korea’s “Great Firewall” is but one example of a regime using technology to limit access to information, and restricting the global internet to a small subset of government-approved content. Access to information outside its borders is illegal and enforced via geoblocking.
How Does Geoblocking Work?
Content providers, as mentioned in the first example above, leverage IP addressing to enable countrywide geoblocking. Every Internet user is given a public-facing IP address by their internet service provider (ISP). Whenever you access a site, your IP information is sent to the site owner.
Since ISPs and the addresses they hand out are organized geographically, site owners can quickly determine a request’s country of origin. They can then limit or outright block content selectively based on location. The good news for you is there are tools available to get around geoblocking and access all the content the Internet has to offer.
Tor is an application that uses routing to enable privacy. With Tor installed, your traffic goes through the connections of various other Tor users before exiting this ad-hoc network and getting to the destination site. Tor can be customized by users by entering a “country code” in a configuration file, which can beat geoblocking.
The drawback to this would be the need to reconfigure county codes constantly, and that content providers may merely block all Tor access.
A proxy is an online service that allows users to send their traffic to a proxy provider site first, then to the destination site. A user’s address appears to come from the chosen proxy’s county instead of their own.
The weakness of this solution is that proxies are purely for the browser, so things like smartphones, other apps, and smart TVs would still be blocked.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are the most effective way to bypass geoblocking. A VPN creates a tunnel from your network to another network, so the traffic looks like it’s coming from the other network instead of yours.
For example, if I am in America and want to watch geoblocked BBC content, I open my VPN application, pick London as my destination, and connect. After that, all my Internet requests look to site owners like they are coming from a London-based IP address, defeating geoblocking.
A VPN can even be configured on a home router, allowing every connected device to take advantage of its benefits. While some services like Netflix are always working to block VPNs, the technological “arms race” is ongoing, and at least UK VPNs are winning.
Perhaps we’re a little bias, but we’re firm believers that our service Yovo is by far the most advanced and painless way to get around geoblocked UK content (support for other countries will be coming soon). Every other solution has downsides. Just reading about the potential issues streaming video over VPN should make you cringe. If that’s what you’re used to, you’ll be amazed just how problem free and easy Yovo is.
The Internet was envisioned as a place where ideas, information, and content could be shared freely, unrestricted. Geoblocking restricts that flow of information, sometimes for profit, sometimes for political reasons. If you believe “information wants to be free,” try some of these geoblocking countermeasures today. In other words, try Yovo!