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How to access blocked websites while traveling

April 5, 2019 Tech No Comments Email Email

Countries and private companies alike use geo-fencing or geo-blocking in order to restrict access to their content based on your location. What we often take for granted, such as Google, Facebook, or Netflix, might either be banned or not available in another part of the world. If you’re travelling to China, Vietnam, or the United Arab Emirates in the following weeks, geo-blocking is something you must be prepared for. The reasons for these restrictions can vary from corporate policy to cultural practices and even political laws. In the case of mainland China, there are over 10,000 domain names that are currently blocked, including Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and much more.

Location-based discrimination

Networks pinpoint your location based your Internet Protocol (IP) address. Your IP is assigned to you by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) that serves as your gateway to the web. When you change your location, your IP will change with it, according to the regional pool of addresses you currently belong to. In order to ensure geo-blocking, networks can filter out a range of IP addresses that come from a specific area or, alternatively, prevent all incoming communications that do not belong to a region.

In the case of Netflix and BBC iPlayer, some of the content is also modified across regions, while e-commerce dealers such as Amazon or Apple often boost product prices considerably for Australian buyers. In the case of services, geo-fencing was actually deemed a discriminatory practice by the European Parliament. Nobody should charge more for their product or service just because you come from a developed country. Unfortunately, this law only applies to the EU.

There are secure ways to get around geo-blocking regardless of where you are currently travelling. Read on.

The easiest way to access blocked sites

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) offer the possibility to mask your IP address and make it look as if you’re actually someplace else. They do this by encrypting and re-routing your traffic through another network before letting you go online, which is a particularly useful feature for getting around geo-fences. Some of the best VPN service providers have expanded this feature to such an extent that you can literally by-pass any geo-fence currently in place. Regulations concerning the use of VPNs varies across regions. Some jurisdictions, like Russia, deem them illegal, while most other countries do not have a specific law that regulates their use.

The best part about VPNs is that they can also provide you with access to your favourite Netflix titles on the go. Albeit an amazing service that is now present in over 200 countries, Netflix offers a library of titles that vary widely across national borders. When you travel, the service won’t stay the same, regardless of the fact that you may be paying, for instance, a U.S. subscription. Instead, Netflix will be changed to the country you’re currently in and provide you with content that is available there. The differences can be quite staggering. Just one-third of the content that you can view in the U.S. you can also experience in France or Germany. This can mean no The Walking Dead and no How I Met Your Mother.

Masking your location using a VPN means you can make it seem as if you’re still back home, and thus be able to watch the same shows you enjoy, rather than be limited to region-specific content. In some areas, such as Turkey, the library is quite narrow, as the best you can hope to enjoy is the platform’s original titles. Services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix have applied these geo-fences as a way to enforce producers’ and studios’ copyright laws across the globe. In doing so, they are practising a form of location-based discrimination as an extension of copyright law that is not attuned to international trade.

No more barriers

Using a VPN makes it almost impossible for Netflix or other networks to keep you confined to geo-fences. The most popular VPNs allow you access to thousands of servers spread across tens of countries. The only limitation you’ll experience is that of regional Internet performance. Although VPN software can redirect and encrypt your traffic, making it seem as if you’re in a different place, it cannot offer you the benefits of that Internet service. In fact, it is likely that your download and upload speeds will be less optimal than with a direct connection.

VPN companies are more in tune with their customers than streaming platforms, so they’re constantly adjusting their services in order to create a better experience on your end. Most of the top-rated programs, such as Nord, Express, or CyberGhost, feature additional performance tweaks that offer you a seamless streaming experience. Some of them have expanded their network to also include nodes that can enhance peer-to-peer connections or the transfer of files using torrents.

Given the level of security and versatility that most VPN services offer, as well as the amazing value deals you can get on some of their subscriptions, having one of these is a must if you’re a frequent traveller.

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