Netflix recently announced it plans to crack down on VPN, proxy, and unblocking DNS users trying to access content in other countries. The good news: watching streaming sites through a VPN may get a bit more difficult, but it will always be possible.
Netflix isn’t the only one, either: Hulu has been cracking down on VPN sites for quite a bit longer than Netflix. Visit Hulu while you’re connected to one of the big VPNs, and Hulu will tell you its library is only available in the USA. So what’s a streaming nut to do?
How These Services Block VPNs and Proxies
If you aren’t caught up yet: Many people get around region restrictions — e.g. “this show is not available in your country” — by using VPN and proxy services. These VPN and proxy services route your traffic through another country (say, the US, where that show is available) so Netflix and Hulu think you live there. These VPNs and proxies use a handful of IP addresses and share them between their users.
For a service like Hulu or Netflix, detecting and blocking such VPNs or proxies would be pretty simple. All the service has to do is track where its users are connecting from and note that a large number of users with accounts from all over the world seem to be connecting from the same IP addresses. Those IP addresses can then be blacklisted. The VPN service can switch to a new IP address, which Netflix or Hulu will eventually notice and block again. It’s an everlasting cat-and-mouse game.
In other words, Netflix, Hulu, or whatever other service you want to connect to has no way to actually detect whether you’re connected through a VPN or not. Instead, it’s just blocking IP addresses it knows are shared among many people.
The Solution: Get Your Own Private VPN IP Address
So, to stop getting locked out, just stop using shared VPNs. Instead, you should get your own unique IP address associated with your VPN. There are a number of ways you could do this:
Continue using a VPN service, but get a unique IP address: Some VPN services will offer a unique IP address to you for an additional fee. Look for services that offer a “dedicated IP address”, “dedicated IP”, or “static IP.” Services like these will allow you to keep watching Netflix through a VPN service, and they are by far the easiest solution.
We haven’t tested these ourselves, but popular VPN services like TorGuard, PureVPN, and Hide My Ass! all offer this feature — although they charge extra. If Netflix really does begin cracking down on VPNs in earnest, more VPNs will advertise this feature up-front.
Host your own VPN at home so you can watch while travelling internationally: If you only need to access the US version of Netflix while travelling internationally, you could host your own VPN server on your home Internet connection. You could then connect to it and continue watching Netflix as if you were sitting at home in the US. This trick will work in other countries as well — it’ll just give you access to that country’s version of Netflix. However, you’ll be limited by your upload bandwidth, as home Internet connections tend not to offer very fast upload speeds.
You could host your own VPN on a router with a powerful third-party firmware like DD-WRT or OpenWRT, or you could do it on a dedicated home server. We’ve gone through the instructions for both in this guide. You could also set up an SSH server, and use an SSH tunnel.
Host your own VPN on a hosting service: If your home doesn’t provide enough upload bandwidth, you could use install a VPN server on a web-hosting service. Any web hosting service will do if you know what you’re doing and can set up VPN server software yourself, although some web hosts may offer a graphical control panel that makes VPN server installation and set up easy.
Realistically, this isn’t for the average user — this is for people comfortable setting up and managing their own server software.
You’d then have your own private VPN server hosted in a data center that can provide more upload bandwidth than you have at home. If you have enough upload bandwidth for multiple people, you could even share it with your friends or family. Plus, it might be cheaper than a dedicated VPN service, although it would likely require a bit more work.
It Isn’t Perfect, But It’s What We Have
Of course, this isn’t perfect for a variety of reasons. There’s no way to get a free VPN here, so you’ll have to shell out a little cash (usually under $10 a month, depending on how much time you buy at once). The requirements are going up, too — a shared VPN won’t do it anymore, so you’ll need your own VPN with its own dedicated IP address.
If you’re accustomed to your VPN service of choice offering servers in a variety of regions so you can switch between Netflix’s US, UK, Canada, and other country-specific libraries in a single click ,you’re also going to be disappointed. Your own dedicated VPN will have a dedicated IP address and be located in a specific country, and your VPN will provide access to services from that country only.
However, these solutions will continue to work, as there’s no real way to block VPN traffic entirely. It’s just getting a bit more elaborate, and — yes — more expensive. VPN and proxy services can continue to play the cat-and-mouse game, moving to new IPs constantly, but getting a dedicated IP for your VPN will free you from the hassle.
If Netflix’s statements about blocking VPN are to be believed, it’s about to get a lot more complicated to access solid libraries of content in countries where Netflix offers very little.
Making legitimate content harder or impossible to legally access pushes people towards piracy — that’s just the truth. Take it from a Canadian: Netflix’s success at gaining subscribers in Canada and other countries with weak content libraries is, in large part, thanks to them looking the other way when it comes to VPNs. Hopefully they don’t continue to make it worse in the coming years.