Couch potatoes, rejoice! Netflix and its ever-changing library of titles just went global, with yesterday’s rollout to most of the world (save China, DRPK, Crimea, and Syria). While that may seemingly herald a slowing of rampant piracy – concurrently all but eliminating the need for unblocking services such as a VPN and allowing us all to binge watch a fully unblocked Netflix to our heart’s desire – things aren’t as clear-cut as they appear.
To see the entire Netflix library at once just by paying your local subscription price, or using the convenient one-month free trial now on offer is the next semi-plausible fantasy. Unfortunately, this fun and wallet-friendly development is highly unlikely due to the myriad licensing and legal hurdles that would need to be cleared to make content availability truly borderless.
So what legal options do you have to get around this pesky restriction issue? Well, there are a few (besides admitting defeat, since no one likes a quitter!) The main one we’ll cover in this post is VPNs – both free and paid – with a mention of an alternative towards the end. So, feel free to keep reading, or scroll straight to the section titled ‘So Many Options, Help!’ to get right down to our picks for enjoying the mind-numbing bounties of Netflix, no matter which country you’re living in or headed througho.
VPNs In Brief
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is essentially a software tunnel that allows internet usage over the greater public network, using private networks. In simpler terms, a VPN channels your unique IP address through servers, spoofing it so that it appears to be from a country of your choosing, so long as your VPN provider has servers there.
Practically speaking, a resident of France can connect to a VPN server in the UK and access the latest seasons of Doctor Who that were perhaps unavailable previously. These paragraphs were a cursory, reductive explanation of VPN technology, with allowances on your part for brevity. Click here for an in-depth look at encryption, or browse through our glossary of VPN terminology at your own leisure.
Now it’s easy to think, well why pay another fee on top of my Netflix subscription – often in the range of €9.99 per month, depending on location – just to have access to more programming? It’s clearly not a stretch to feel as though you’re stuck in an insidious feedback loop meant to suck up your money in little bits while asking if you’re entertained, a la Maximus in Gladiator.
However, most (well-conceived and executed) VPN providers provide more functionality and resultant purpose to their services beyond accessing Netflix titles from outside any given territory. Keep reading for more info as to the why conscientious and conscious web-users should ideally use a VPN whether browsing our streaming. Or, skip over the lengthy bit below, straight to the next section featuring the word help in the blue title heading.
VPNs As Near Essential
Sadly, the digital landscape today is rife with pitfalls. From identity theft and fraud to governmental snooping – unwanted intrusions are multifarious and only rising with global cyber-crime figures north of $100 Billion annually. What’s more, unwanted (unless exhibitionism is your thing, no judgment here) and grossly unwarranted surveillance and data trawling is happening almost everywhere to virtually everyone.
“Fundamentally, bulk acquisition is a major impediment to success by analysts and law enforcement,” he said. Instead of mass collection of personal information the former NSA technical director said a targeted surveillance approach, built on previous intelligence should be used to track down suspected criminals … Retroactively analysing people, anybody you want, any time you want, that’s certainly possible with bulk acquisition of data but that’s certainly not what democracies are built on. That’s what totalitarian states are built on.”
It might seem I’m being excessively paranoid and prone to errant speculation, fair-play. However, what if a former high-ranking security analyst trusted with protecting the citizenry from cyber threats says the current M.O. used by intelligence services is more akin to that of bygone dictatorial regimes, than the ‘progressive’ political sphere we tend to be so fond of subscribing to and living in – would he be a quack or a saint?
A full decade after Mr. Binney’s initial whistleblowing and Edward Snowden dropping the mass curtains of delusion many of us have metaphorically slept under offered an up answer, albeit inconclusive. As with most things in life, it’s some and some. Many are quick to point out that in a world full of chaos, more blanket security is ideal, paramount even. Greater powers are continually enacted for intelligence services under less regulation while ordinary citizens have greater regulation (on things like whether the devices they buy have backdoors and tracking methods built-in, and how they can legally circumvent these) and fewer ways of ensuring transparency on the part of policing agencies.
Binney likened this paradigm shift to some dubious state-sponsored terrorist intelligence services of the past in an interview with The Nation three years ago.
“It’s better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo and SS ever had.”
Don’t call me a buzzkill just yet though the sentiments expressed above are certainly sobering – at least to some extent – they aren’t exactly novel for most people. What’s more, this wouldn’t exactly be a balanced piece, and you’d likely be calling for my head or job, if I sleazily sold you on a VPN without delving into why I frankly believe them to be crucial to safely navigating the World Wild Wide Web.
So Many Choices, Help!
Either the illusion or the inundation of choice (and certainly both) can leave a prospective customer befuddled, in any marketplace, and VPNs are no exception. Our handy comparison tool can help with that pesky overload by sifting out a VPN according to your needs and devices, let’s say Android phone, Bitcoin payment, and 24/7 tech support, with OpenVPN also included.
Various writers on our team have also compiled dedicated top-five guides according to device or OS, country, or features. A few are shown below. Keep reading for a note on free, and cheap VPNs, or skip straight to the end for the our top-five VPNs for unblocking Netflix worldwide.
Like any rational and budget-conscious individual, you may well be tempted to use a free VPN, without blame to be fair. If you do, please just watch out for services such as Hola, which provide little to nonexistent security, and in Hola’s case even sell off your bandwidth to third parties. If you feel a VPN isn’t worth paying for, browse through our top-five free VPNs, or our Top-Ten Ranking of the best all-round VPN providers.
There’s more, our sister site – SmartDNS.com – features an alternative solution for bypassing ge-restrictions, which you may find suits your needs better if your main focus is just unblocking.
We’ve covered the recent Netflix expansion, a bit about how VPNs work, then discussed at length why they should be considered as necessary. Just try to remember that you invariably get what you pay for when it comes to security and anonymity. Meanwhile unblocking the entire Netflix library or something along those lines would consequently mean your needs are a bit more lax.
Best VPNs for Watching Netflix Globally Summary
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“The VPN thing is a small little asterisk compared to piracy,” Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings told the Independent. “Piracy is really the problem around the world … The basic solution is for Netflix to get global and have its content be the same all around the world so there’s no incentive to [use a VPN] … The key thing about piracy is that some fraction of it is because [users] couldn’t get the content. That part we can fix … Some part of piracy however is because they just don’t want to pay. That’s a harder part. As an industry, we need to fix global content.”