How to Access Geographically Restricted Content Using a VPN

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Some websites, especially ones serving media content, restrict who may access their content based on geographical rules. For example, the British Broadcasting Corporation blocks all foreign users from accessing the BBC’s video streaming content. Similar restrictions are put in place by the Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and many others.

What will you learn in this post?

I will show you how to:

  • change your computer’s public IP address
  • use the most user-friendly virtual private network
  • set up a completely free and functional virtual private network

Change Your Computer’s Public IP Address with a VPN

I consider geographic blocking one of the most backwards uses of internet technology. The idiocy of it is up there with one government agency taxing someone making 1000 dollars a month, while another government agency “creates” billions of dollars a month by a few keystrokes on a keyboard. The mind simply boggles…

What good can be gained by banning the free flow of information in the 21st century?

Seriously, I will send 20 bucks to anyone who can come up with a credible answer to this question in the comment section below this post.

Anyway, as it is always the rule with idiotic policies, this one is easily circumvented, too — change the public IP address of your computer to one that the blocking site will evaluate as geographically correct and grant it with access to its content.

Related Post

How to Find the IP Address of Your Computer


An IP address is a unique ID given to a computer when connected to a network. IP addresses vary depending on whether you connect to private or public networks.

VPN

The solution is called Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A VPN connects you to a computer network located in the country from where the restricted content is being served. The connection is created using a tunneling protocol.

This way the filtering site receives a request from a local computer’s public IP address and not your restricted public IP address. This is also called IP address spoofing.

Better Privacy

All VPNs worth mentioning encrypt all data transferred between your computer and the virtual network.

This ensures much better privacy for your browsing and online activities. Should anyone try to log or hijack the communication between you and the VPN, they would only obtain gibberish.

It is important here to mention that should privacy be your primary concern, then you should only go with a VPN service that doesn’t log any information about you (such as your real public IP address) or your online activities (such as the sites you visited).

The Downside

Although the actual data wouldn’t be accessible, you could be still identified by the metadata that isn’t encrypted.

Or, in case your online activities fall under a heightened level of scrutiny, the communication between the VPN and the content server could be tapped, which is not encrypted. And at the same time, the encrypted communication between you and the VPN could be tapped, too.

This way, spies or hackers could analyze all this traffic and find out in a short time who you are, where you are connecting from, and what data is being exchanged between you and the content server.

Another, more practical downside to VPNs is that the free ones are very limited either on bandwidth (usually to 500 megabytes per month) or on speed. This is done in order to promote their premium VPN services — you gain meaningful access to streamed content, they get some profit.

Obviously, by paying for such a service, any semblance of anonymity is immediately gone because any online payment can easily be tracked back right to your person.

Keeping all the downsides in mind, here are the two best VPN solutions I have come across.

TunnelBear

TunnelBear is the most user-friendly VPN I have ever seen. Anyone, even the most technologically disabled person can understand and use it within a few minutes.

There are just a few steps you need to do to use TunnelBear:

  • Add its extension to Google Chrome.
  • Create a TunnelBear account.
  • In case you already have an account, log in to it.
  • Select the country where the restricted content is stored.
  • Visit the restricted website.

To select the country, all you need to do is click on the TunnelBear VPN icon located next to the hamburger menu icon.

tunnelbear-icon

TunnelBear Icon

Then, select your destination IP by country and click the ON/OFF button to connect.

tunnelbear-connect

TunnelBear Connect

Important Note

The TunnelBear extension does not work in Google Chrome’s incognito mode.

TunnelBear limits your data transfer to 500 megabytes per month. To lift the limitation, you need to upgrade to their premium service which is actually quite affordable at just $50 a year.

OpenVPN + VPNBook

This is a solution for tech geeks. It needs a bit of setting up but it is completely free.

First of all, download and install OpenVPN for your Windows.

Next, download VPNBook’s zipped certificates for OpenVPN.

You have to extract the .ovpn files from the zipped archives to C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\config.

Next, launch the OpenVPN GUI and select the VPN you want to connect to. You will need to provide the username and password for that VPN.

vpnbook

VPNBook

The currently working VPNBook username is vpnbook and the password is 8uWrepAw. This information is also publicly available on VPNBook’s website.

Now you can access restricted websites located in the country where the VPN you connected to is located.

Hulu without VPN

Hulu without VPN

Hulu with VPN

Hulu with US-based VPN

Conclusion

VPNs are a great tool that provide a reasonable amount of security, privacy and anonymity for standard internet traffic. For people who connect to academic or corporate networks from home or from the field, VPNs are indispensable.

VPNs can also be used to cloak the real public IP addresses of computers, so that they can access geographically restricted content. This is mostly used to access streamed media content from the US, UK, and elsewhere.

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BBC TV

Although VPNs do provide some amount of privacy, any communication with them certainly can be tapped. And, if necessary, detailed traffic analysis can always be used to identify you and the specific content that you have received using a VPN.

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