While there are several websites to help you keep up with your favourite series or movie releases, accessing them from Australia presents a challenge.
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Thanks to an IP address that places you in a country automatically geo-blocked by the website, you can’t access the content. The best way to get past this hurdle? Use a service that can access these sites for you via a different IP address.
Is using a VPN to access geographically restricted content legal?
There are many legitimate uses for a VPN. However, the legality of using one to access geographically restricted content is a bit of a grey area. While you're not likely to attract the attention of the Australian Government, you do run the risk of having your VPN or streaming subscription cancelled. There is also the chance that a copyright holder may want to pursue legal action if you're found to be accessing that content in an unlicensed region. Keep in mind that the very nature of a VPN masks your IP and prevents your online activity, so it's not for us to say if and how the copyright holders would be able to identify you if you do choose to access their content without the proper licensing. Here at finder.com.au, we do not encourage internet browsing activity outside the law, we only aim to compare the services available to Australians.
You can do this in one of two ways.
Build a VPN
This means creating a tunnel to a US-based VPN and redirecting all your internet traffic through that virtual location. In essence, as far as sites like Netflix and Hulu can tell, you’re based somewhere in the United States. VPNs are particularly efficient for businesses connecting offices in remote locations, and is also a good way to bolster security since it protects shared information by encrypting it. Different services have different set-ups, but since the concept across is largely similar, the best would be to opt for a “download and run” alternative. You can benefit from this service across all your mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Change your domain name system (DNS)
Some services offer access to sites like Netflix and international sports channels by providing you with an alternative DNS. Like the VPN option, the exclusive site thinks that you’re in the United States and therefore grants access to its content. However, instead of having to build a tunnel a US-based VPN to bypass geo-blocking, these services offer users their DNS servers to log on to websites. When your connection arrives, their servers forward it along to the destination site. Videos are then streamed directly from the site to your computer (instead of being rerouted). These kinds of services don’t handle all your internet traffic, so browsing speed is not affected.
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Who are providing this service currently?
If you’re interested in trying one of these services, here are a few providers that offer access to your favourite channels and websites.
- Unblock US. Available on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android platforms, this Smart VPN service can be set up on all your mobile devices. They offer step-by-step instructions for each platform on each device, but once up and running, you can only use UnblockUs on one device at a time. Besides video on demand sites like Netflix, HBO GO and VUDU, UnBlockUs also allows access to major international sports channels.
- Getflix. By using their DNS servers with a US-based IP address, you can gain access to websites previously blocked thanks to your Australian IP address. Covering both regions in the US and the UK, the service itself is quick and doesn’t affect your general browsing speed. They offer a free 14-day trial. Signing up implies a variable fee depending on how many sites or channels you’d like to access.
- TorGuard. TorGuard can help you access content that is blocked according to its location. They can also help you set up a network that is absolutely private, protecting your data and giving you complete anonymity. Get a free trial here.
What sites can be unblocked?
Keen to get started on streaming episodes or the five-day international? Depending on your browser and the device on which you’re viewing the content, the following sites and channels (amongst others) are accessible via unblocking services.
Video on demand
- Netflix, Hulu, Hulu Plus, NBC, CBS, HBO Nordic, HBO GO, Vudu, MTV, Vevo, Yahoo Screen, MGo, Crackle, ESPN, National Geographic, FX Networks.
TV channel sites
- BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, TV Player; SkyGo, MSN UK, NowTV, TV Catchup, ABC Family, CBS All-access, CNBC, TNT Drama, Comedy Central, TF1 France.
- NHL GameCenter Live, NFL GamePass, NFL Now, NFL Game Rewind, Rugby Live Sport, J-League Live Sport, beIN Sports Connect, WWE Network, Premier League Pass.
- Disney Movies Anywhere, The Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Marvel.com, Sesame Go, ABC Family.
- Pandora, Spotify, Rdio (yes, it's actually spelt like that), BBC iPlayer Radio, Songza, IHeartRadio, Slacker, Rhapsody, MTV, AbsoluteRadio.co.uk, Beats Music, Tidal Hifi.
Is my device compatible with a VPN?
The following devices are compatible with most unblocking services:
- Apple devices: iPhone, iPod, iPad
- Android devices: including Amazon Kindle
- In the office: Desktop and laptop computers
- Internet TV: AppleTV, Roku, Google TV, Boxee Box
- Smart TVs: LG, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic
- Gaming consoles: PS3, PS4, XBox One, Xbox 360, PSVita, Wii, WiiU
How do I set my VPN up?
While the process varies from service to service, here are a few pointers when setting up your device to view content.
- iPhone or iPad: Change the DNS setting of your Wi-Fi connection to the one provided by the service. You can enter more than one server. You could also download streaming apps via the US iStore by creating a new Apple ID.
- AppleTV: After inputting a DNS address provided by your service, restart your device. You could also select the US option for iStore, restart and then choose from the apps available to American customers.
- Android phone: Select the Wi-Fi icon, change the IP settings to static and input the DNS address to the one they provide. Save and restart your device. As with the devices on the Apple platform, you can download streaming apps manually via the APK Downloader.
- Smart TV: The interface is different for every brand and model, but you can start by accessing your network connection and resetting it to accept the provider’s DNS address. Besides restarting your television, you also need to have at least one additional device with the provider’s settings saved. If your television doesn’t have an integrated browser, you’ll be able to verify your settings.
- Gaming console: For connecting via your Playstation or Xbox, some services like Getflix require that you sign up for an account. If your router is already configured with a Getflix DNS address, you don’t have to sign up for an account. With sites like UnblockUs, you can do this by customising your internet connection and using two DNS addresses closest to you.
Are there any service fees involved?
Most services charge a monthly or annual subscription fee, while others offer package deals for three or six months’ worth of access for a discounted price. Some services like TVUnblock provide a free service, but it’s up to you to set up your DNS connection since they don’t offer customer support.
What are the limitations and drawbacks of using this service?
- Slower browsing. Rerouting your internet traffic through a VPN tunnel will slow down your connection, making browsing difficult and laborious.
- Lack of customer service. Although services like TVUnblock offer free connections and access to previously geo-blocked sites, they don’t provide support to customers requiring assistance. Instead of paying a subscription fee, you have to visit the site every 30 days to renew your access.
- One device per account. Depending on the service you use, you can only access the video sites and channels on one device at a time.
- Some sites don’t work. Sites like Netflix have started cracking down on VPN and DNS services that bypass geo-blocking.