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Geo-blocking: What is it, why it exists, and how to circumvent it

VPNs offer an easy and somewhat affordable way to bypass the restriction while also protecting you when you surf the Internet–killing two birds with one stone.

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Some countries prefer to control the flow of content in their country, both for political and financial reasons. You don’t need to look hard to find examples of this either, with nations such as China frequently restricting what can and can’t be shown or used within its border. China is, for example, one of the very few countries in the world where Netflix is not available. Instead, the Chinese government opted for streaming services that they can fully control. 

At best, geo-blocking is annoying and limits the entertainment citizens of certain countries can enjoy. At worst, it’s a telling sign of political censorship, cutting people off information and restricting freedom of speech. 

Fortunately, geo-blocking suffers from one weakness that many around the world take advantage of. But first, let’s define geo-blocking, why it exists, and how you can circumvent it.

Defining Geo-Blocking

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As I hinted at earlier, geo-blocking is the process where a governmental or corporate entity limit your Internet access, prohibiting you from visiting certain areas of the Internet. I used Netflix as an example, with the service being banned from China.

Geo-blocking may be used for either political or financial gain. For the sake of continuing the China example, the state dislikes Netflix because they would be unable to curate the content their citizens watch on there.

However, Netflix geo-blocks certain content across many countries; while you may be able to watch Better Call Saul in your home country, you may not be able to watch it if you ever travel to a different country. There are many reasons for this to happen, ranging from financial reasons to licensing issues. 

Why Geo-Blocking Exists

As explained in the previous section, geo-blocking exists as either a form of control or as a sort of filter. Some governments may not want to expose their citizens to un-curated content or content that they feel violates certain values. 

There’s not much to say here besides that, again, there are numerous reasons as to why geo-blocking may be imposed in certain areas, not all as obvious as others. However, it’s annoying either way, which is why many circumvent these restrictions by using a VPN.

How to Circumvent Geo-Blocking

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Virtual Private Networks–commonly referred to as VPNs–allow you to circumvent geo-blocking by sending your data through unaffected servers located outside the geo-blocked area.

While VPNs are typically used for security purposes, many rely on them to avoid restrictions imposed upon them due to geo-blocking. All that needs to be done is for the user of the VPN to select the server location (United States, Canada, U.K, etc.) and enable the VPN. Once enabled, you’ll be able to view any content allowed in that country.

Note that there are many free VPNs on the market but they most likely won’t work for streaming on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or other popular platforms. That’s because streaming platforms actively try to detect if users are connected through a VPN and block them. 

You would typically need to opt for a high-quality provider to view your favorite shows and that means paying a monthly fee. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s the best you can get in respect to geo-blocking. And, at least to me, paying $10 a month for the privilege of viewing any show I want is more than worth its weight in gold. And if you’ve just warmed up to the idea of using a VPN, the timing is perfect. With Black Friday just behind the corner, the chances are you’ll find a decent VPN discount on a service of your choice.

Be warned, however, that bypassing geo-blocking restrictions is considered a crime in some countries, so do your research before you start using a VPN on holiday. If you’re careful with your use of a proxy service, you won’t need to worry about anything; just don’t go shouting around the town that you use a VPN for Netflix as this practice violates the Terms of Service (there’s no record of Netflix ever acting on that, though).

Conclusion

No one likes being told what they can and can not enjoy, especially if you’re an adult, so when a country tells you that Netflix is banned or that the latest season of Better Call Saul is unavailable, it’s only natural you want to avoid these restrictions.

Fortunately, a VPN offers an easy and somewhat affordable way to bypass the restriction while also protecting you when you surf the Internet–killing two birds with one stone.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Just another guy who likes to write about tech and gadgets.

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