I like to watch the British television programs, including Who Do You Think You Are? When I was in Scotland last year, one evening in my hotel room I watched a movie on the U.S. version of Netflix. A Canadian friend of mine watches Netflix movies from his home in Canada.
How is that possible? The answer is simple: use a VPN.
The problem of watching some television videos on the Internet is that the producers and the broadcast networks may have an agreement to only make the programs available in one country, either when broadcast on the air or on cable networks or when making the programs available on the Internet. They handle the “problem” on the Internet by examining the Internet Protocol (IP) address of every computer that connects to the web site that stores the video and making sure that IP address originates from the “allowed country.”
The same is true for Netflix. While Netflix itself is available in many countries, many movies have licensing agreements with Netflix that only allow the movie to be shown in one country. That is especially frustrating when an American citizen wishes to watch a movie that may be legally shown to Americans but the citizen is on a trip to another country.
When a computer is connected to the Internet, it is assigned an IP address. Anyone or any computer can see the IP address, perform a quick look-up of the IP addresses, and determine what country the IP address is from. If the IP address is not from an “allowed country,” the connection is denied.
As a result, it is difficult for anyone outside the U.S. to view the U.S. version of Netflix or the U.S. version of Who Do You Think You Are? Luckily, there is an easy solution, called a VPN.
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network.” It enables a computer or other network-enabled device to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it were directly connected to the private network, while benefiting from the functionality, security and management policies of the private network. The primary purpose of a VPN is to encrypt data being sent over the Internet in such a way as to keep it secure, safe from prying eyes. However, a second benefit of a VPN is that it hides the originator’s IP address.
Use of a VPN allows a person anywhere in the world with an Internet connection to connect to a VPN server in another location, even in another country. If the VPN server is in the United States, anyone connecting to that VPN server will appear to be located in the same country. That person will then be able to access Netflix and other Internet video sites that normally block non-US connections.
If you would like to learn more about the process, read my recent article, Private Internet Access: an Easy-to-Install VPN for Windows, Macintosh, Android, iPad, and iPhone, in the Privacy Blog at http://goo.gl/jsuG6n.