The war waged on VPN service by the media companies has been going on for many years but it’s lately developed a new twist. Virtual Private Networks are used by millions of people to bypass internet filters, censorship and region locking. The latter term refers to the practice of restricting access based on your location, usually to due with some sort of licensing restrictions. It’s very common and for anyone who travels a lot or lives abroad can be a real problem.
For example a US citizen spending some time in Europe will get barred from accessing all their home media services – their Hulu and HBO accounts for example will not be accessible. This is because they won’t have a US IP address and will ultimately only have access to media resources in the country they are located in. Even more global service like Netflix will redirect you to a localized version which can be a problem if you don’t speak that language well. So VPN services have been extremely popular as they stop this sort of filtering, you simply connect to a VPN in the country you wish to access and everything should work fine, so you can choose which is the best VPN for Netflix for instance.
Blocking these services is actually very difficult, simply because the actual VPN connection is very difficult to identify. The method usually applied is to try and monitor simultaneous connections from the same IP address or manually locate the addresses of these service providers and add them to a black list. Both work but are extremely time intensive to operate and the reality is that the IP addresses can be rotated very quickly anyway.
However Netflix has moved the battle significantly with it’s latest blocking move, by restricting access to specific categories of IP address. The media giant has blocked access to it’s servers from any commercial based IP address, and given that 99% of VPN servers sit in data centers with commercial addresses this move has wiped out the majority of VPN access to Netflix.
The fight has moved on however and other companies are now expanding to offer different VPN services which are assigned residential classified IP addresses rather than commercial ones. These can be more expensive but are currently the only way you can access Netflix servers by using a VPN to hide your real IP address. It’s too soon to be certain whether this will become more widespread, although it does seem to be the simplest way to enforce region locks.
Whether all companies are going to be able to provide the sort of residential VPN that is needed to bypass these blocks remains to be seen. At the moment these domestic classified addresses are hard to get hold of for anyone who isn’t an ISP – some companies like Identity Cloaker have incorporated them but they are the exception at the moment.
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