Over the last few years there has been somewhat of a battle developing online. It’s about how the very fundamentals of the internet work and for many it’s fundamentally changed the whole concept of the distribution of information. When the internet was first developing, there were very few barriers – any web site, resource or page was accessible to anyone – anywhere on the planet. If you were blocked or couldn’t access a site then it was more likely a technical or configuration issue rather then a restriction or filter – this is no longer the case.
Over the last decade, slowly but surely this position is beginning to change. Now blocks and filters and restrictions exist all over the internet installed by all sorts of people. No longer do web sites publish for the world, they control access specifically for certain markets or locations. It’s like some huge segmented wide area network, where access policies are being applied based on your physical location.
Why Would I Use a British Proxy?
The reasons vary greatly, from governments who wish to restrict what is accessed online like the Turkish and Chinese governments but more commonly it’s commercial organisations who want more control over their content. The primary driver is usually profit of course, years ago you could stream movies from Hulu free of charge wherever you happened to be – now it involves a subscription which is only available in specific countries. The same has happened with the UK TV channels, BBC ITV and Channel 4 are now only accessible from within the UK – otherwise you’ll get blocked.
The majority of the ‘commercial’ filters are enforced based on IP addresses, which can be used to identify your location. The websites look up where your address is assigned to which then determines whether you can access or not. The BBC iPlayer for example will only work if it detects that you are connected from a UK registered IP address. Which is why the exponential growth of the use of proxies which people used to hide their real IP address and use one in a different country instead. So using a UK proxy online would allow you to watch the BBC wherever you happen to be in the world – here’s how it works – How to Hide IP Address online.
This technical subterfuge made proxies an almost essential tool, certainly if you were based in a location where the government filtered your internet connection in addition to the commercial companies. Turkey for instance is adding to it’s blocked sites list at an alarming rate and combined with normal internet filters it means that many parts of the internet are simply inaccessible without using such technology.
Unfortunately proxies which were commonly available often for no cost are becoming increasingly ineffective. The problem is that they are very easily to detect even when configured by experts, which means that most commercial sites now detect and block access from British proxy servers. The BBC blocked them for the first time earlier in the year, a move which upset millions of global BBC viewers.
Fortunately a very similar technology still works and is virtually undetectable and that’s virtual private networks (VPNs). These operate in a similar way to British proxies but they are much more sophisticated and allow the communication channel to be encrypted. Many of the commercial companies try and detect the use of VPNs without fail but now rely on spotting their use by the number of physical connections tied to a single IP.
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