Netflix is one of the most widely used streaming services in the world, with millions of viewers either using it to supplement their cable TV service, or replace it altogether. For a single flat rate, you get access to thousands of titles, and arguably some of the fastest streaming of any online TV service.
The scope of Netflix has gone way beyond American borders, with versions now available in Canada, South America, Europe and Australia as well. However, it’s still completely unavailable in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and due to content restrictions in those areas, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
What’s the Holdup with Netflix Overseas?
The problem you run into with trying to get services such as Netflix overseas is somewhat split between broadcasting/telecommunications agreements and content censorship.
It’s no coincidence that the areas where Netflix is unavailable are also some major hotbeds for internet censorship. The Middle East and China in particular are well known for having very strict content filters in place for internet access, blocking sites such as Netflix and Skype completely.
These content filters are applied on the national level, and often come with government surveillance programs as well. For example, in China, they have their own version of Skype, which is heavily monitored by the government there.
Services such as Netflix are just too hard to police for content, and as a result, are often blocked entirely by governments with internet censorship in place.
Is Netflix Different in Other Countries?
Even in countries where you can access Netflix, understandably the content varies, and you won’t be able to watch the same shows you would in the US. Your IP address tells websites and servers your location and presents you with geographically appropriate content.
This means that even if you have a US Netflix account, your content access will vary overseas. Your IP address is the unique code associated with your wireless device that gives servers your rough geographic location. When you access content, it’s all dependent on that code.
Everything from the type of websites you can visit to what kind of advertisements are dictated by your IP address, and the information can even be used to trace your internet activity back to you.
Watching Netflix Overseas
Even with all of that standing in your way through, watching Netflix overseas isn’t too difficult. Even if you have access to your account, but it’s not the content you want, you can still manipulate your IP address to access the same content you would be able to if you were at home.
This can be done manually with the old school method of using proxy servers. However, this is a hit and miss technique that doesn’t always yield reliable results, and it can be tricky for beginners to figure out. There are a lot of complex settings to get into if you take this route.
By far the easiest way to watch Netflix overseas is to use a VPN.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for virtual private network, and it’s a new take on an old favorite. It basically works the same way as a proxy code, only it’s automatic and much more dependable, so it’s great for streaming content (because forget about interrupting Orange Is the New Black).
When you sign up for a service plan (though there are a few free options out there as well), you get access to a worldwide network of servers. The VPN functions like a secret tunnel in the internet, allowing your web traffic to bypass local servers and instead go to the location you’ve chosen.
The software automatically hides your real IP address, giving you instead the one associated with the server you’ve chosen. Basically, it tricks websites into thinking you’re somewhere else.
What this means is that you can actually be in a place such as China, and by connecting to a server in, say, New York, get access to American Netflix. Your traffic is even protected from government surveillance with state of the art encryption, so VPNs are also a great tool for use on public WiFi where data security is always a concern.
Can Beginners Use a VPN?
The thing is, the market for these programs is FIERCE. Everyone’s selling VPN service, because it’s one of the most effective way to protect your privacy and access blocked content overseas.
That being said, they’ve become incredibly easy to use as a result. Gone are the days of setting up connections manually and diligently punching in server codes. Most VPNs set themselves up, and the process of connecting is as simple as picking a server from a drop down menu.
Even if you’re barely internet literate, you can absolutely figure out how to use a VPN.
The Basics of Unblocking Netflix
If you plan on using some of this internet hocus pocus to watch Netflix on your next business trip or vacation, make sure you plan accordingly. Streaming services such as this require a fast connection, and not all services are created equal.
Take a few for a spin with free trials, read up on some VPN reviews, and most importantly, install the software before you travel. If Netflix is blocked, chances are so are VPN sites. But once the software is on your device, you’ll have access no matter where you go.
So what about you? Have you ever been stuck overseas without access to your favorite shows? How bad were the withdrawals? Share with us in the comments below.