We’ve all spent quite a lot of time indoors of late and, despite the wide range of entertainment available through the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Rakuten, you may find that you’ve watched nearly everything that’s out there. However, you may feel like you’ve gone through every single series, box set and movie, but there’s more out there.
Many of you will probably remember my articles detailing the return of “geo blocking“. It’s something that used to happen back in the DVD era when movies couldn’t be played in different countries. Now, with online streaming exploding, there’s a continuance of this. Although sometimes it’s due to local copyright laws, there’s sometimes other reasons which have nothing to do with broadcast or ownership rights.
As an example, when the new Disney+ subscription service launched in the USA, there was a lot of interest in the Star Wars space western – “The Mandalorian”. The buzz quickly spread online, leaving many in other countries wondering what it was all about. Sadly, Star Wars fans in other countries simply had to wait for Disney+ to launch in their respective countries in order to watch it. A frustrating experience, especially when details of the show had been posted all over the internet.
Decreasing the cost of watching
Sports fans have also had to put up with similar restrictions. Here in the UK we’ve seen Premier League TV coverage becoming available on many different channels and providers. Now, if you want to watch all the matches, you have to subscribe to Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime. Suddenly, with additional packages and channels to subscribe to, the cost of your viewing has increased. It’s far more than it used to be when the Premier League was delivered on just one service (Sky Sports) back in the day.
All of this has led to people looking for other ways of watching their favourite shows and sports. The internet delivers such a wide range of options, so you’re no longer restricted to your local TV provider.
With the return of the football, some of my mates here in the UK have taken to watching NBC Sports. This is a sports channel in the USA, but it means that they can watch local Premier League football a lot cheaper. Trouble is, you need to be a US resident or have an American IP address.
Another way of watching the football is via a variety of streams that are posted on Facebook or Twitter just before or during a game. All of this is great, but without a VPN you won’t be able to get the NBC Sports channels and you’re putting yourself at risk if you’re watching a stream which you’ve found on the internet.
Get a VPN!
Sites like Surfshark offer free trials with a 30-day money-back guarantee. It’ll unlock geo-restricted content by making it look like your phone or laptop is in a different country. Without services lie this, you’re in your house with your internet address showing to the world. With a VPN turned on, you’ve got a foreign IP address in the country of your choice and nobody knows who you are. Services like this offer over a thousand encrypted servers and there’s a strict no-logs policy so you’re not tracked. Surfshark won’t monitor your activity or collect logs of any kind. Your information remains private and even your ISP won’t know what you’re doing.
At home I’ve implemented a VPN by using a separate router. This connects to my VPN provider and then puts out another WiFi hotspot for me to connect to.
Of course, it’s not all about TV and sport. If you’re using a free WiFi hotspot in a cafe or restaurant, the owners can be quietly tracking what sites you’re looking at. A VPN app will protect you from snoopers and hackers, so your files, messages and other private information remains just that – private.
If you’re doing any peer-to-peer file sharing (BitTorrent etc) then again, a VPN is an absolute must. Without it, the IP address that your internet (or mobile network) provider has allocated to you is completely public. Movie studios can see your IP, they can get in touch with your provider and they know who you are and where you live.
In years gone by, a VPN was only used by a certain subset of internet users, but with the likes of Google, Facebook and WiFi providers learning more about your movements and activity, keeping yourself and your information private is becoming more and more popular. In addition, some services offer protection against malicious malware and phishing attempts. They’ll also blocks adverts and trackers – making websites faster and keeping your browsing history safe and secure.
Paying for a VPN is the better option
Although there’s lots of free VPN apps available in the various app stores, it’s better to stay with a trusted and respected VPN provider, paying for the service rather than relying on a free provider who could well be logging your activity and paying their costs with your information. Free VPN apps will also put restrictions on your bandwidth, so your streams will jutter and lag. They’ll also place restrictions on what you can and can’t do – so you may not be able to watch Netflix and you’ll be bombarded with adverts while you’re using the ads. They could also track you and sell your details onto the highest bidder.
A paid for and respected VPN provider will let you bypass geoblocks, they’ll provide more bandwidth, they will allow multiple devices to connect and they’re also usually well priced anyway, so it’s not a massive pain in the wallet.
A VPN has many different uses. It’ll protect you, it’ll protect your data, it’ll protect your online activity and it’ll give you a lot more options on the web. You can alter your location, you can stop your ISP watching what you’re doing and it’s fast becoming an essential tool for smartphone users everywhere.