So this message – “Programme Cannot Be Streamed Due to Rights Restrictions” and some very similar sounding ones are becoming more and more common in the online world. It’s normally preceded by an attempt to stream a video, or watch a TV show or listen to some sort of internet radio channel. It’s a message with no real upside and basically informs you that based on your physical location this particular piece of content is not available to you.
If you want to solve it quickly then simply subscribe to NordVPN then connect to a server in the matching country !
The last time I saw this was this afternoon when I was trying to catch a cool new show on RTE player the Irish version of the BBC. Most of the site appears to work fine but as soon as I try to watch a programme on rté player then I’m given this chastisement that it cannot be streamed due to rights restrictions. What it means exactly is difficult to know for sure, however these rights restrictions will only affect you if you’re outside Ireland.
However if you are in Ireland don’t worry it will affect you too ! Just about every single decent media station in the world restricts access based on location. You can visit their sites but as you are doing so your IP address is being checked and if you’re in the wrong place you’ll get a message that this programme cannot be streamed –
Here’s another one from the BBC that you’ll get if you’re based outside the United Kingdom. Which yes also includes inhabitants of Ireland, even if they’re a hundred yards from the border. There isn’t really a media site that doesn’t practice this to some extent and increasingly this filtering, controlling and blocking is becoming pervasive to our online experience.
It’s an increasing scourge on the online world, and it seems to be spreading. Most video and online broadcasts are restricted whether they’re on an online player like BBC iPlayer, RTE Player or even YouTube. The justification is normally claimed to be due to rights restrictions, presumably that the broadcasting rights to each programme are assigned on a per country basis.
If this is true then it’s pretty crazy that copyright for a global medium is being still assigned on such a restrictive basis. What’s more worrying that this is increasingly meaning that access to information on the internet is becoming segregated based on your physical location. In reality it’s probably more to do with maximising profits and being able to keep different markets separate in order to charge different prices.
Where You’ll Get – This Programme Cannot Be Streamed Due to Rights Restrictions
To be honest it’s likely to occur on any large media companies streaming sites, They all use a system called geo restrictions which will allow access based on your physical location when you visit the site. All the major UK TV channels operate these restrictions you can’t normally watch the BBC Player abroad for example. You can’t watch RTE Player without an Irish IP address either.
BBC iPlayer – UK only
RTE Player – Ireland Only
ITV Hub – UK Only
NBC – USA Only
M6 Player – France Only
Hulu – USA Only
Basically pick any country and you’ll find the same. If you’re outside the domestic market then you’ll normally be blocked by default as soon as you visit the site.
Simple Solution – Stop Getting Blocked/Controlled Use a VPN
For many of us using a VPN service has been something of a second nature for years. The realisation about how little privacy we all have online is becoming a major issue. You may think that everything you do online is ‘private’ and ‘anonymous’ but it really isn’t . Virtually every website we visit, tracks and monitors our behaviour. Plus your ISP has access to logs which contain a full and comprehensive of absolutely everything you do online. That includes every website, every video you watch, every file you download, every email or message you send. Imagine how much information that contains on each and every one of us, how much of this would you enjoy being in the public domain.
Using a VPN provider to both hide your location and encrypt all your data stops all this. As long as you pick a reputable VPN service who delete all your logs instantly then you’ll regain a large proportion of your privacy online. Your ISP will not have a full list of all your activity as it will be hidden by the VPN server – both the actual web pages and all your data too like emails, messages etc.
Yet for many these benefits aren’t even the main reason that they use VPN services ! It’s simply to try and bypass the geo restrictions we mentioned above. Using a VPN means that no-one knows your real IP address which is the primary tool that websites use to block people’s access.
Watch rté player outside Ireland
Watch the BBC from anywhere in the world
Access US entertainment sites like Hulu, NBC or Pandora from outside the US
Plus many, many more! A VPN is the ultimate tool to bypassing these geo restricted filters, you simply ensure that you connect to a VPN server in the right country before accessing the site. So for RTE player you’d need to choose one with servers in Ireland, for NBC servers in the USA and so on.
Fortunately most of the top VPN providers have facilitated this function and you’ll find they provide servers all across the planet under their basic subscriptions. You should always check though if you want to be able to watch a programme from a specific country as only the biggest VPN providers will cover every major country. Especially if they can be expensive to locate in like New Zealand and Australia. Ensure they have either a trial or a proper money back guarantee just in case you find your chosen programme cannot be viewed.
Most of the VPN services will cover North America and the majority of European countries though, so you should be ok with the majority if the channels you want to watch are in one of these locations. If you want a recommendation for a quality VPN provider then NordVPN is worth checking out. It has one of the biggest global networks with VPN servers in more countries than most which means you’re able to stream most content you’ll find blocked.
Update October 2020 – So the Question remains can you get Identity Cloaker for Mac computers and Apple Devices? Well yes, sort of ! The MAC version of Identity Cloaker was released in 2011 in beta. You can download the demo version for OS X here – IdentityCloaker com free download. This is fully functional but only allows you access specific sites, so it’s great for testing functionality. In truth I’m not sure how well it works, there has been little news on updates and developments on this version over the least few years. I have always used the manual VPN connection method on my devices which is detailed below.
Identity Cloaker for Mac
There is no doubt that Identity Cloaker is a great piece of software – I’ve been using it on my laptop for nearly thirteen years now. This small company from the Czech Republic was actually one of the very first companies to sell an affordable internet privacy protection service. It has an extensive server infrastructure and operates much lower contention levels (less connections per server) than most of it’s competitors. This means you get almost minimal speed loss and there are very few problems with the proxy servers and IP addresses being blocked by large media sites like BBC iPlayer.
However in truth there’s been very little development on the OS X versions since it’s initial release and very few updates. I would suggest that if you want to use the Identity Cloaker servers on a Mac or any other Apple device then you should use the manual connection method illustrated below (it’s virtually identical on the Mac/iPhone as the iPad). If you do it’s best to set up multiple connections, for example a UK VPN, US VPN connection and so on. You can just enable these individually.
However although this method works perfectly well, you do lose all the other functionality of the software itself in this case. Your internet privacy is still protected by the VPN but if you want to use SSH tunnelling or modify the ports for the data transmission path then you’re out of luck. If you just want to bypass geo targeting to watch something like BBC iPlayer on your iPad it works just fine and in fact better than the vast majority of overcrowded VPN services. However without the software it’s not really a fully featured anonymity protection service.
If you want an alternative, I can definitely recommend NordVPN who are one of the biggest VPN providers in the world. It’s all on a much larger scale than Identity Cloaker but with that you get a larger infrastructure with more servers and 24/7 support teams. Their client application is easy to use and just involves clicking on the map to select a country, easy enough for even the biggest computer newbie. The VPN servers are fast and secured with the same military grade encryption as Identity Cloaker.
Importantly they have fully supported versions for virtually every device you can think of including iPads and Macs.
Here’s the link to their latest discount pages –
Watching BBC iPlayer on my iPad
I’ve started to leave my laptop at home nowadays in preference to the wonderful iPad I bought last year. After I got used to the fear of dropping it, it’s become an essential companion – much easier to carry than a laptop, starts up immediately and is basically just a joy for a traveller.
Of course there are limitations, including the well documented Flash problem. However one of my main issues was the fact when I travelled to the USA, lots of my UK sites like BBC Iplayer and ITV just wouldn’t work. Now this isn’t a problem with the iPad specifically but it’s due to the fact that most of the UK media sites block access to anyone outside Great Britain. So I had to figure out how to change my IP address to a UK one by using proxies or VPNs to bypass these blocks.
Watching BBC iPlayer using an IPad VPN
Now I work in IT Security and one of my favorite tools is Identity Cloaker which I also use to bypass all these location blocks. It works great on my laptop and PC but the software wasn’t currently available for the Mac OS or iPpad. However fortunately all of their servers including the US ones are VPN enabled – so all I needed to do was connect to one of those.
Anyway here’s the steps I followed to watch BBC Iplayer from the US –
All being well – you’ll be at this screen
So in this screen you can already see one VPN already set up – this one is for the US. But I need to add a UK one so –
Click – Add VPN Configuration
You should then find yourself in this screen –
Looks a little confusing but it’s not actually that difficult. Now two pieces of information are not published by Identity Cloaker for security reasons – but these are in the members area when you log in or email and ask for help if needed.
Here’s how you fill the fields in –
Description – Give it a descriptive name – usually country name is best.
Server – This is in the member area for Identity Cloaker users- UK VPN server names
Account Name – Your Identity Cloaker Username
RSA SecurID – Ignore this
Password – Your IDC password.
Secret – This is in members area for Identity Cloaker users under – VPN Secret Name
That’s all there is to it – just remember to Save the VPN configuration before you exit. It is there ready for you to use, whenever you need a UK address then you just enable the VPN as follows.
So to enable the VPN just turn it on from this screen, switch the slider to on. In this situation we would turn the British one on so we can watch BBC Iplayer outside the UK. Remember when you enable the VPN all data is routed through that server down an encrypted tunnel. You may want to disconnect to do your normal browsing after – although you should use it for secure browsing – online banking etc. It’s great for switching between versions of Netflix to personally I always change to the US version of Netflix.
When the VPN is enabled properly then you should see this in the top left corner of your Ipad.
This method will probably work with other proxy/VPN subscription services as long as their servers are set up for VPN access – just ask them for the information you need. To get access on a laptop or PC then check out this other post – BBC Iplayer outside UK.
There are many nations who are rather keen on filtering the internet. Of course the examples they usually use are of sites run by paedophiles and criminals, which of course nobody objects to. However it rarely stops there, and once some sort of filtering system is adopted in a country you’ll find that list of sites that are blocked gets longer and more varied. Pretty soon there will be all sorts of extensive censorship being practiced – your Government will decide what you can and can’t do online.
But there’s another issue – the technical side is far from clear cut. There is no definitive best method for filtering on this scale. Some are so hopeless that you can get around them using Google translate to bypass the restrictions. Here’s a couple of the methods some countries have implemented. Both of the techniques depend on the development of a blacklist (sites that needs to be blocked). So consider – somewhere there’s a little group of people who hold meetings deciding on what should be included in this list. Imagine if these people had strong religious or political beliefs – their decisions could be quite different from your own.
Unrelated to Post But Funny !
But to utilise this black list you have to find a way of stopping people visiting the sites on the list.
One of the most basic methods is DNS poisoning, an extremely simple method of modifying the domain name tables belonging to the ISP’s.
Using this method you can redirect requests for specific blocked pages to someplace else. So when a user asks for one of these pages his browser is actually misdirected to another server – either with a warning page or simply completely blank.
Surprisingly many of the Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden have used this method in the past, although it is also been utilised in Holland and Germany too. It’s an awful way of filtering as it messes around with the core functionality of the internet – DNS. But it’s biggest problem is it’s extremely easy to bypass, point your machine at any non-poisoned DNS server and you will get the right address and be able to access the website. The other obvious issue is that you have to block an entire website as the address is not related to a single page. Not easy with many social sites and collaborative platforms like Blogger and WordPress. For example is you want to block a single offensive YouTube video you’d end up blocking most of the site if you use this method.
There are more sophisticated methods of filtering the internet though, companies like BT and Optenet specialize in providing such services such as Netclean. All the solutions work in slightly different ways but fundamentally they all have some sort of method of comparing the requested URL with a list of ‘naughty urls’.
Geo Targeting and Blocking by Country
This is probably now the most common method operating currently on the internet for blocked sites. Simply by analysing your physical location you can restrict access very easily indeed. In fact it’s easy to achieve for anyone, whether you’ve got a two page blog or a million page multimedia site blocking websites is a trivial task if you wish to do so.
The most common example you’ll see online is to protect copyright and broadcasting rights. For example all the online TV sites like BBC iPlayer block access to anyone from outside the UK. US media sites do the same, you can’t even listen to Pandora online while you’re physically located outside the USA. All they have to do is look up where your IP address is registered, if it’s the wrong location you’ll be denied access. To be honest this will probably account for the vast majority of blocked sites in 2020. It’s a simple method and you can easily filter out entire countries from accessing your website or redirecting them somewhere else.
Even if you visit somewhere like YouTube, depending on where you live you’ll find many videos inaccessible. This is because you can actually restrict on a video level who is able to access them and lots of people do just that. Just like the access blocked websites, it’s an increasing sign of the various borders and barriers which are appearing online.
The list is obviously one problem as mentioned above – especially in the eyes of those of us who argue against censorship of the internet. But the technologies can also cause issues as well – a current report from Watchdog International highlighted a few technical difficulties that can happen with one of these technologies.
Here are a few of the instances.
ACMA Test of Blocking YouTube
When the Australian Government trialled the BGP filtering system Netclean White Box, they included a few URLs from Youtube to be blocked. The problem was that because a URL from this site was added, all requests for this domain name (Youtube) then got handled directly through the filter. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue with some low traffic criminal website but because YouTube is so popular the box had to deal with millions of requests – which in the end made the Whitebox fall over.
Wikipedia image was contained byIWF List
The Web Watch Foundation manages a very extensive black list of sites over the web. The list can be used by anybody as a master list of which web sites to block. In this event the IWF added the URL of a Picture saved on Wikipedia. Unfortunately this caused a problem with the BT Cleanfeed system being used, when the system filters the web request it acts like a proxy server replacing it’s own IP address with the request. In one of the tests this meant that Wikipedia got hundreds of thousands of request from a single IP address range (the BT Cleanfeed system) which ended up with it being banned and Wikipedia becoming inaccessible for everyone.
The Web Watch Foundation removed the URL pretty rapidly and realised their error but at least the potential problems were highlighted by it when you start any main-stream censorship and Internet Filtering. There is also the very real issue that such censorship can normally be bypassed very easily by simply using a web proxy if needed.
How to Go to Websites that are Blocked – Use a VPN
So how do you ignore all this nonsense and bypass all these restrictions? Is it even possible to access these restricted sites? Well fortunately, with only a few minor exceptions it’s not that difficult to access whatever you want irrespective of these blocks. The method will vary slightly depending on the situation, however generally it involves using something called a virtual private network (VPN) to keep you location private and your browsing hidden.
It’s sounds complicated but in reality using a VPN to access blocked websites takes little more than a click or two. There’s loads of software around from various VPN providers which will allow you to connect safely to a vast global network of VPN servers across the world.
Now if you’re not afraid of a little technical tweaking there are a couple of free ways around this. They involve things like relaying through a friends/colleagues home connections to bypass the restriction. Or using the Tor browser which can be used to hide your location as well as delve into the Dark Web. However using Tor has a major drawback for things like video and music – due to it’s onion router configuration it can be extremely slow. Which means although you’ll be able to access sites like the BBC from abroad, it will be very painful to endure!
Fortunately there are quite a few internet security programs which are simple to use and don’t cost much. You don’t need to tweak or fiddle with settings and will work ‘out of the box’ with any browser like Internet Explorer or Google chrome. You just point it at the right VPN server and then visit the web address as normal. It will hide your current home country and any sites will just see the VPN ip addresses when you visit.
Let’s see one in action !
As you can see it’s really easy to use and requires no technological skills whatsoever. In fact half the time you don’t know you’re using a VPN as your web browser functions as normal. Well not quite as normal as all that blocked content will be visible again. Your only real decision to make is to choose the right country in order to match the blocked site. So accessing the BBC iPlayer would require a connection a UK VPN and server. To watch something from the US you’d need to click onto an American one.
If you’re trying to bypass restrictions placed by your local government or leaders then it should also work to. So if you want to access social networks when they’re being monitored or blocked, then connecting to a more open country combined with the local encryption should be enough.
You don’t need to mess around with the command prompt when you want to access a specific site. The software/VPN service demonstrated in the video is from one of the world’s biggest suppliers – NordVPN.
Of course, if I said someone lived in a ‘bad neighbourhood’ or was rejected for a loan due to a bad credit score then you’d all know what I mean. But in this ever increasing online world there’s another aspect to your existence that can have an affect on your life – and that is your IP address.
Your IP address is of course your unique identifier assigned to your computer when it’s online. It’s full name is internet protocol address and you can read the technical background on the wonder of IP and it’s role in TCP/IP here. But suffice it to say, that without this address it is impossible to communicate online, it allows you to visit websites, download films and DVDs and send emails and just about every thing else available on the web.
So What is a Bad IP Address ?
Well there’s really two main definitions or causes of a bad address and we’ll try and cover both here.
Definition One of a Bad IP – An Address That Doesn’t Work
For most people the sole function of an IP address is to get you onto the internet. Which is of course very important to many of us. However it’s really a way of connecting with other computers via a protocol called TCP/IP the universal language of the net. If your computer/phone/tablet or whatever doesn’t have a valid address that can communicate with your Internet access point then you won’t be able to enjoy access to the internet at all.
the most common scenario by far for total lockout from the internet is when your device is automatically assigned a default address for some reason. It’s not actually a bad IP address merely one that can’t communicate properly in most scenarios.
A Bad IP is normally assigned from the range 169.x.x.x and is actually a default automatic address assigned to your device when there were no proper one’s available. It’s a perfectly functional IP in theory but one that will be unable to communicate with all the devices on your local network including crucially the modem/router or access point which allows access to the internet.
The most common reason is that your wireless access point or router has failed to assign your device a local IP address using a technology called DHCP.
Here’s the main fixes –
Restart your computer or device. This will allow a fresh request to be made for a new IP address, hopefully this time you’ll get a proper one. It will often be something like 192.x.x.x but don’t worry too much as long as it doesn’t start with 169 !
Restart the modem/wireless router. Often best combined with the previous suggestions, IPs are normally assigned from a pool of addresses on the access point. It might be this service has stalled or simply run out of addresses – restarting will also restart the service and could get everything working again.
Assign a static IP address. It’s not ideal but if you’re not getting an IP address assigned automatically you can assign a static IP address to your network card. Make sure it’s in the same range as your modem router. So for example if your access point is 192.168.1.1 then you could assign something like 192.168.1.28 and it would be able to connect.
Definition 2 Bad IP – A Valid IP Address That’s Being Blocked for Some Reason
In fact your IP address will already partly affect some areas of your online experience. Have you ever been blocked from a site or video? Perhaps tried to watch something on YouTube and been told it’s not available in your country? Well that’s all down to the location of your IP address – mainly what country it originates from.
So if you do a quick search online, many sites will tell you that to find your IP address – just select command prompt type in the command ipconfig /all as I’ve done in the screen shot above. From this screen you might suppose that my IP address is 192.168.1.15 as circled. This is actually a private IP address and is only valid in my internal network – it’s not my real internet facing address. Within my house like millions of other people I have multiple devices like laptops, phones and PCs all connected through my internet connection, these internal addresses allow them to communicate through my single real IP address.
To find your real IP address, you need to look at the configuration screen of your modem or router, the device that actually connects through to your internet provider.
Here’s mine –
Well a bit of mine, obscured for privacy reasons ! This address is allocated by my ISP to my connection and all my devices will appear to the internet to be from this single IP address. So my son, downloading games to his Xbox will appear at the same address as my wife and I surfing from the same location – we all originate from the same single address.
The Problems Caused By These IP Addresses
So although at any point in time, your connection will be the only one online using this particular IP address – it doesn’t mean you always have. If you can see from the screen shot – the address has been assigned dynamically from my ISP – who basically have a big pool of addresses which they allocate individually to their customers. All the addresses will be assigned from this database which are registered to specific providers and countries. This is how geo-targeting works – everyone knows which country an IP address is assigned to. Which is why you’ll need a US IP address for Hulu and a UK address for BBC Iplayer, anyone can look up which country and IP address is located in very easily.
Sometimes an IP address can be used to send out millions of spam messages, attack websites or download and share pirated software and films. Most hackers and spammers will normally try and use someone else’s address to hide their location – obtained via viruses and malware without the owners knowledge.
This is the sort of behaviour that can find any IP address blacklisted – on some of the thousands of lists of ‘bad IP addresses’. Many of these lists have been developed to combat Spam and so mail servers across the world can block any mail received from them. Unfortunately IP addresses are routinely shared and reallocated to you can easily end up with one these being issued to your connection.
Common scenarios of being allocated a ‘bad address’:
Problems Buying Things Online
Ever tried to buy something online and found your payment couldn’t be processed? You might get some generic error message from the retailer saying it couldn’t accept payment or something similar. This may be that your IP address has found itself onto a blacklist somewhere. Frequently IP addresses are blocked if they’ve been used by online criminals perhaps with stolen credit card details or similar. Some of the spam lists are also used by big payment processors – some companies block addresses from whole countries, certainly a problem if you’re accessing the internet from somewhere like Nigeria.
Difficulty with Sending Email
If your address (or worst your mail server address) has been put on an internet blacklist you may find problems with emails. Maybe emails bouncing back undelivered often with obscure sounding error messages. Many of the big webmail providers like Hotmail and Yahoo will routinely block emails from bad server addresses on the blacklists.
Accessing Websites and Forums
Internet blacklists are often used by many sites to try and prevent spammers and hackers accessing the sites. Many websites will automatically block access from IP addresses which try and login to secure servers for example. Here’s the message I get whenever someone tries to hack into one of my websites.
You can see that after three failed logins, the system will now block any attempted access from that specific IP address. It wouldn’t matter if that IP address was assigned to a different person or location, until that restriction is removed you wouldn’t be able to view my website using that address.
There are further questions 0f course – how do I find out if my address is blacklisted? How can I change my IP address? Which you will also find answered on the pages of this site.
So How Can I Change My IP Address if There’s a Problem
This is perfectly possible but it depends on what are your requirements. For all client side problems, that is the IP addresses assigned to your connection – it’s important to remember you have no direct control. The address is assigned automatically to your router or modem when you connect to the internet by your internet service provider. You can certainly ask them to change it. Although this is not always a straightforward request with some of the more rigid Internet service providers. Sometimes it’s possible to force a change by rebooting all your equipment and then reconnecting. This may provide a different address depending on the configuration assigned by your ISP, unfortunately this doesn’t work as often nowadays.
In reality there is an easier way, to not exactly change your address but hide it. People have been using VPN services (virtual Private Networks) for years to provide some privacy when they’re online. However the added bonus is that while you’re connected to a VPN then your actual IP is hidden, instead everyone will only see the address of the VPN server your are connected to. If you pick the right VPN this means that you potentially have thousands of different address in lots of countries at your disposal.
Here’s a example of how you can use a VPN to change your IP addresses whenever you need –
As you can see the security software allows you to change your static IP by simply clicking a button. Also as long as you select the right country, then you can unlock content in any site restricted by geo targeting. Of course, it’s important that the VPN servers addresses aren’t listed on any blacklist check either. A VPN enables you to choose whatever the web servers see, there’s no input from your hosting provider or ISP. You should generally stick to servers in your actual location unless you need to bypass a geo block as you’ll get better performance from servers nearer you.
There are lots of these VPN services around but only a handful with the infrastructure required to completely unlock the internet.
Here’s our choice – Nord VPN, with several million subscribers it’s the best value VPN company with fast, secure servers.
Why do people look for USA Proxy and VPN servers? Well there’s a variety of reasons and now many people use technology like this just to hide their identity and their IP online. Sometimes specifically for privacy reasons or quite often they simply need US IP addresses to bypass internet blocks which are based on geographic location.
For example if you are having a holiday in South Africa, don’t presume you can access all the same web sites that you do from the United States. This simply isn’t the case, in fact the internet is increasingly becoming divided up and filtered usually based on your physical location.
Many sites particularly some of the major media sites restrict access to US visitors only, blocking any IP server addresses from outside the country. In addition you’ll also find that countries like Turkey heavily filter the internet too, often restricting sites like Twitter and Facebook to anyone inside the country. Where you are physically located when using the internet is way more important that which passport you hold. Even if you’re a United States citizen, if you’re outside the borders then you’re likely to be blocked from many of it’s best websites.
So on the whole privacy and freedom issue – this is why many of us use either a US proxy or VPN everyday. However in reality the reason millions of us looks for an anonymous proxy is not to protect our anonymity but more to unlock websites which are restricted to us. As this filtering continues the demand is rising for methods to bypass these blocks.
Don’t Use a Free American Proxy Server
It used to be possible to use free servers from a proxy list to hide your real address but it’s not advisable to use these anymore. The problem with these free web proxy setups is that the vast majority are merely badly configured servers accidentally left open. They are very rarely even datacenter proxies just privately owned ones that have been effectively hijacked. Unfortunately cyber criminals and hackers also use them, primarily to distribute malware and to steal valuable personal information – e.g. passwords, emails etc. Indeed there are thousands located in the United States designed to lure in visitors from all over the world to harvest their details.
So what’s the difference between these two technologies and which one should I use. Both perform basically the same function and can give you a US IP address but in very different ways, which ultimately will define which is best for you.
A proxy is a computer that acts as an intermediary between you an the websites you visit. When you use a proxy, the traffic will appear to come from it’s IP address not yours. This is why people will use a US proxy to access US only resources, a UK proxy to access the BBC and so on.
The two main types of proxies are as follows:
HTTP proxies – designed to work for web pages i.e. HTTP
Socks Proxies – no specific protocol, handles all traffic.
A few years ago, proxies were pretty much all you needed to access most sites and you could find free ones all over the internet. Nowadays though most media sites can detect and block the use of proxies and there are many security issues with them too. They can still work for a few sites, a proxy based in the UK will still allow you to access the majority of the BBC iPlayer application for example (need a VPN to download from the site though).
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and in some ways they perform a similar function to proxies. A VPN creates a secure, encrypted tunnel between your client and a host VPN server. This allows a new level of privacy as even your ISP cannot see what you do online other than your connected to a secure VPN server. The main advantages are that the VPN provides a much higher level of privacy masking pretty much everything you do online from everyone. They are more resource intensive though and quite costly to run and support, which is why you won’t find any free ones online.
The encryption layer does involve a slight overhead which can slow your connection down slightly. However the better ones like Identity Cloaker compress the data as it’s being transported so can actually slightly speed up your browsing through some VPN servers.
VPNs are much safer to use and if you have access to a VPN in the right country you should be able to access any restricted site. So to be clear you’ll need to use a US VPN or proxy for sites like ABC, HBO and Hulu, but a UK one for BBC, ITV and UK TV sites. Most of the major providers will provide a network of servers across the globe but you should check if you have a specific requirement.
For most people it makes sense to go for a supplier who has a large proxy server network not just located in the United States. Indeed most of the leading VPN companies have a proxy list which will allow you access to servers all over the world. It gives you the flexibility to access sites in all these countries. For example I watched an interesting News report on one of my interested from a TV station in Wellington, it was only accessible using a New Zealand based proxy server.
Here’s my two recommendations – both offer full VPNs, fast servers and access to many different countries in the basic subscription. Although both supply software to connect, you can set up the VPNs manually on most other devices like tablets, smart phones and even routers.
Identity Cloaker is definitely, primarily a security product but offers both proxy and VPN modes for accessing BBC Iplayer, Hulu and all media sites. They have loads of US proxy servers and even more UK based ones so if you want to watch the BBC iPplayer service then it’s probably your best option. They do have lots of servers in the France, Germany, Australia, Canada and throughout Europe as well though. They also don’t automatically renew your subscription either which I like.
NordVPN is probably the market leader in VPN services, they’re certainly one of the biggest in the world and have literally hundreds of servers in the United States. I do like their connection software which is easy to use and they have applications for most devices including Android and iOS phones/tablets. Lots of United States based servers included in the standard subscription. They also have the widest selection of servers across the world although perhaps many won’t use most of them. If you need a server in somewhere unusual they are most likely to have them. The support staff know their stuff and are very helpful. If there is any criticism it’s normally related to their scale, sometimes too many are loaded onto UK servers so access gets blocked from some servers to the BBC. I’ve not experienced it with any United States sites but it’s definitely possible that this will happen. They do have plenty to move to but it can be inconvenient if you’re watching something live for example. They’re very cheap but only if you subscribe to their longer subscription deals.
UPDATE July 2020
Netflix have implemented a new system for blocking VPNs and unfortunately it’s worked very well. Just using any United States based proxy or VPN is no longer enough to access Netflix with. If you want to connect back to watch the United States version of Netflix then you need to check current status with your chosen provider. The vast majority of VPNs no longer work because they detect certain IP classifications. Both Identity Cloaker and NordVPN do have some servers which currently work.
What Netflix started doing was to block all IP addresses from commercially registered ranges which included 99% of all VPN addresses which are generally installed in commercial datacenters. This was extremely effective initially and stopped just about all access to the United States version of Netflix (which is awesome by the way!). They seemed to have pulled back from this slightly, as commercial address ranges have started to work again. However if switching your version of Netflix to the United States one is important to you then you should double check with any provider you select.
It’s finally happened, after years of apparent indifference to the millions of ‘unofficial’ viewers, BBC iPlayer is now blocking VPN services that are being used to watch the BBC iPlayer from outside the UK. To recap, since the demise of the BBC International service the only way to watch the BBC from non-UK locations is to use a proxy or VPN to hide your real location. Therefore using a VPN became a common way for people to keep up with UK based TV when travelling or indeed for ex-pats living outside the United Kingdom.
Great Deal 2 Year Deal on a VPN that You Can Still Stream BBC iPlayer Abroad in 2020
What happens is that when you access the BBC website it looks up the location of your IP address, if it’s in the UK then everything works – if not then you get another version of the site with no live programmes and no BBC iPlayer. Fortunately it’s not that difficult to bypass these blocks, all you need (or needed) to do was to connect using an intermediate server which was based in the UK. This would make it appear that you were in the UK and hence everything would work fine. The BBC would assume that the IP address of the VPN server was yours and then allow you access, as long as the VPN server was in the UK.
So a simple VPN program was all you needed to watch BBC programmes online irrespective of your actual location. There were lots of them around and most were pretty simple to use, indeed thousands of pensioners on the Costa Del Sol were some of the first to embrace this new technology. As long as the VPN had a UK server you would be able to access BBC programs through it.
Here’s how it’s done – with my trusty VPN which I’ve been using for well over a decade.
As you can see it’s relatively simple, using NordVPN for example means you can change your location with a click of a button. Most of the decent VPN systems are like this, you install the software on your computer which is basically a VPN client. This then should allow you access to the VPN providers network. Most of the best VPN services will have plenty of servers all over the world. However if you’re main priority is watching iPlayer with a VPN then it’s only the servers in the UK that you should be interested in. Remember you’re using the IP address of the Virtual Private Network server to watch BBC iPlayer not your real one.
When picking a VPN to access the BBC iPlayer it’s important you focus on these UK servers to access streaming services. There’s little point paying for a huge global network of servers across the world if you mainly just want your VPN app to watch the BBC News. The other side to this is that any VPN service which intends to allows it’s VPN users to access BBC iPlayer needs lots of UK servers to work properly. If too many people are using the same servers then performance will be terrible and you’ll find they’ll become useless to unblock BBC iPlayer. When you find people complaining – BBC iPlayer not working then this is normally the reason.
This technique is not restricted to accessing BBC iPlayer either – certainly all the other UK sites like ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 streaming services are unblocked in exactly the same way. Again the common denominator is that you have to use UK VPN servers when using your connection. Although these services aren’t free, it’s easy and they’re not expensive either. A few Euros will effectively get you access to more UK television programmes than any expensive cable system will. A few minutes and you can watch BBC News from any sunny clime from around the world.
Over the years many different media services have waged war on these services. Proxies were the first to fall, almost all the big online media companies now block access through a proxy server automatically – although they still worked with the BBC iPlayer until this last update. Companies like Netflix and Hulu were particularly aggressive in blocking VPNs – also their legal departments were targeting the companies who openly marketed these services. The BBC however didn’t really seem that concerned occasionally closing down the odd provider but doing little technically to block these services.
How is BBC iPlayer Able to Block VPN Services ?
At the moment it’s fairly simplistic, but you might have discovered very effective -simply blocking the IP addresses of these services. All they need to do is to identify which IP addresses are being used by multiple users and block them from accessing the content. It’s not difficult to do, although it also will block legitimate UK users who use a VPN for security too.
It’s quite straight forward really and not very sophisticated but it makes perfect sense and explains why iPlayer not working for so many people. If the BBC support team detect thousands and thousands of connections on the same IP address then they can be pretty sure it’s a proxy or VPN. So all they need to do is to block access to that single address and suddenly the thousands lose access. There is a caveat to this method, sometimes people legitimately share the same address when connecting through businesses, shared internet connections, colleges etc so they don’t want to block these. Which is why as long as a VPN service is careful about distributing people across it’s UK addresses then it should be ok.
Basically it’s why the more UK addresses that a VPN has – the more likely that it will work fine with the BBC iPlayer. It generally means that the really low costs services which put too many people on each server don’t work anymore.
Once the IP address of a VPN provider is blocked it becomes useless for accessing any of the BBC iPlayer or live streaming programmes. Most of the biggest and widely marketed VPN services have been affected – my IpVanish account suffered the block although apparently they are working on a fix. Ultimately it can turn into a game of ‘Whack a Mole’ with the the UK server addresses being continually changed and then blocked by the BBC – usually someone gives up in the end. Fortunately there are some like Identity Cloaker which still work perfectly for streaming BBC which is probably largely due to the fact that the number of users per IP address is very limited and the company is very low key in advertising the TV watching functionality.
Ultimately the best advice is to avoid any VPN company who openly markets themselves as a BBC iPlayer VPN service, these will definitely be prioritized and worse may be closed down completely. It has happened in the past and is relatively easy to achieve – usually a legal threat against the hosting companies does the trick. It is unlikely that the BBC would be able to block complete access, simply because they would have to be constantly updating it’s firewall tables with new IP addresses to keep up. Other companies have pretty much given up to – for example Amazon Prime.
Is it Safe to Access the BBC iPlayer from Abroad Like This
When you connect to the BBC iPlayer site then before you are able to watch any TV programme either live or from the archive you are asked if you have a UK TV License. This question will determine whether you get any further irrespective of your VPN access. Of course to watch you simply have to say yes, there’s no further checks or questions to validate your answer.
Understandably this worries some people and I get lots of questions on this site about the legality of using a VPN to use the iPlayer app like this. Well, here’s a quick rundown of the answers to these question that I receive regularly.
Are VPNs Legal ? Absolutely completely legal in all developed countries. Even in China where the Government actively try to block them they’re not currently illegal. Remember a VPN is a secure way to access the internet and most businesses who have people working remotely will always use VPNs all the time.
Am I Breaking the Law watching the BBC without a license? There’s no criminal law involved at all. At most you are breaking the terms and conditions of the BBC iPlayer site. It’s simply nothing to do with criminal law. Remember literally millions of people do this everyday.
Can I get Detected ? Although you do have to register a BBC iPlayer account now to watch BBC iPlayer – your actual location cannot be determined when using a VPN. It’s completely hidden and no trace can be made back to your real address.
How Can use on my Smart TV ? Well you can use a VPN on a Smart TV to access iPlayer but it’s not straightforward. If you want to install a workaround on any device with internet access like this then you’re better offer using an alternative technology called Smart DNS. Here you just modify your DNS servers to hide your location – it’s simple and as quick as the fastest VPN and works with Amazon Prime too.
Here’s the best value VPN that actually works with the BBC in 2020