How to Bypass Geo-restrictions While Streaming in 2020

The internet has come a long way in the last few decades, and many of us today cannot imagine living without it. With all the information, content, activities, services, and more being available at our fingertips — it would be hard to give that up for anything.

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Online streaming has become an especially popular online activity, and many believe that there will come a day when online streaming might become the main method of accessing different types of content. Traditional television might become obsolete with services like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and alike being available.

After all, with these services, you pay a low subscription fee, and you are free to watch whatever you want, whenever you want, and for as long as you want. However, there are some drawbacks to this method, and to using streaming services, in general. You might have heard — or even discovered yourself — that you cannot exactly access all of them.

In fact, depending on your location, you might have a hard time accessing any of them. You would try to reach one of these services, only to get the message that it is not available in your country. This is a consequence of geo-restrictions, which are quite firmly implemented in some countries, or by specific services.

What are geo-restrictions?

To put it simply — geo-restrictions are a form of online censorship. They can be introduced by governments or services that offer streaming content. However, unlike censorship, where the services and governments are blocking their own people from accessing certain content, geo-restrictions only allow their content in certain regions.

Let’s take the BBC iPlayer as an example. This is a well-known, great-quality streaming service developed by the UK’s BBC. However, the only people who can actually access it and watch its content are those located in the UK. No one else is allowed to access BBC iPlayer, not even the UK citizens who find themselves outside of their country’s borders.

It doesn’t matter that they might have subscribed back home and that they have an account within the service. As long as they are outside of supported locations, they will be denied access.

This is something that many of today’s services are employing. Netflix, for example, covers many countries around the world. However, it doesn’t offer the same content to every country. If you want something only available to US citizens — you must go to the US.

This is a problem of geography, and it clearly shows that the internet does not exactly erase borders, as many had previously believed it might. With internet freedom on the decline, however, many have taken steps to ensure that it won’t happen. Or, at least, that there are methods of bypassing these restrictions.

As a result, we now have several methods of doing so, and accessing online content that should not be available to us. So, if you wish to access Australian, American, Russian, or other content — you will have to employ one of these methods.

How to bypass geo-restrictions?

The only way to bypass geo-restrictions is to hide your location. However, turning off location tracking on your phone or computer won’t cut it — it is your IP address that gives you away. Whenever you try to access a website, it scans your IP and determines where you are from. That way, it knows whether or not you should have access to its content.

Well, hiding your IP is not the only way, as you can also change your real DNS address, both of which come from your internet service provider (ISP). But, more on that later. For now, we will focus on hiding your IP, and there are two ways to do so.

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Hide your IP with a VPN

Our first method is to use a VPN. VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are basically private networks that span all across the world, which you can access via the public network — the internet.

They were originally developed as online privacy, security, and anonymity services. However, with geo-restrictions and censorship increasing in the last several years — people started getting VPNs primarily to gain access to forbidden content.

As mentioned, VPNs have all kinds of privacy and security features, but today — we are interested in the anonymity feature. To reach true anonymity, you will have to make use of VPNs’ server networks. These are networks that have servers all around the world, and each VPN has its own network.

Each server in every country has its own IP addresses, and by connecting to one of them, you can replace your real IP with one owned by the VPN service. This helps because the IP addresses are tied to the servers’ physical locations. In other words, if you live in Europe, and want to access American content — all you need to do is connect to a server that is located somewhere in the US. You would then receive a US-based IP address, and any online service you try to access would think that you are in the US.

This works for every country where your VPN of choice has servers, and you can connect to any of them from anywhere in the world. The best VPNs, such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, also offer excellent speeds that do not impact your internet speed as much. All VPNs will slow you down, as they have to encrypt and protect all of your online traffic. But, some are faster than others, and ExpressVPN and NordVPN are among the fastest ones.

Finally, the very fact that your traffic will be hidden and encrypted means that no one will ever know what you are doing, so you can reach total anonymity, security, and privacy by using a VPN.

Bypass restrictions what a proxy

Another way of bypassing geo-restrictions is to use a proxy server. Basically, proxies act as an intermediary between your computer and services that you are trying to access. They are not unlike VPN servers that we discussed earlier. Basically, you are browsing the internet through the proxy.

You make the request, and the service delivers it and brings back the results. If the proxy has access to the service — so will you. This is a good way of accessing foreign content, but it is not entirely safe, and it does come with a few drawbacks.

First of all, most proxies are free to use, which usually makes them quite overcrowded. This can lead to slow speeds, or even downtime if the server happens to crash due to it being overburdened.

Next, proxies do not protect you in any way. They only deliver the content that you requested, not unlike a search engine. Meanwhile, everyone can see what you are doing, including your internet provider. There is no encryption, no hiding your traffic, nor any other security feature that VPNs provide, which usually makes proxies riskier than VPNs. Not only that, but you also won’t be able to access content locked away behind login walls. In other words, if you need an account to access content — proxy won’t do.

Use Smart DNS services to bypass restrictions

Earlier, we mentioned that hiding your IP address is not the only way to access restricted services and that another method includes changing your DNS address. You can easily do this by employing Smart DNS services.

Basically, Smart DNS do exactly what you need — they replace your original DNS address which was granted to you by your internet provider. They do not affect your address, but rather only a few selected DNS entries which reveal where you are from. After that, your connection gets re-routed via a dedicated proxy server in the country where the website is based. In other words, this is a method where you can access content without hiding anything except your real location.

Best of all, there is no speed loss, as it doesn’t re-route all of your traffic, but only a single detail — your geo-location. Of course, just like proxies, Smart DNS also doesn’t protect you in any way. There is also a possibility that your internet provider might block the Smart DNS that you are using. Also, they offer a list of sites that are unblocked, and you cannot use them for accessing any website in a specific region, which is worth keeping in mind.

Use the Tor browser

Finally, we have Tor — a free anonymity browser that is mostly known for its role in accessing the Deep Web. Tor operates within its own network of nodes — computers provided by other users — to re-route your traffic time and time again. When your request to access the website finally reaches the website — it is impossible to tell who was it that originally sent it.

This is a great way to confuse online services and gain access to virtually anything. However, sending requests from one computer to another has its own drawbacks, and the greatest one is its negative impact on your speed. There is a noticeable delay, even when you try to access regular websites. Using Tor for streaming could end up being a very painful process — one that you are unlikely to find enjoyable.

Still, it remains a possibility, so we decided to list it anyway.

Conclusion

Bypassing geo-restrictions in 2020 is not that difficult to do, but there is a lot of websites and services that use this form of censorship. From everything we have talked about today, it seems quite obvious that VPNs are the best way to go. Proxies and Smart DNS services won’t protect you, and their capabilities are usually limited. Meanwhile, the Tor browser is way too slow for streaming.

VPNs provide the best solution. They are only slowing your internet down by a bit (if you choose a good quality service), and they will certainly protect you like no other service ever could. Of course, you will only need that if you are concerned about being monitored. So, the final choice falls upon you. But, keep in mind that there is already too much online surveillance as it is, and you might want to consider protecting yourself in any way possible.

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