Geo blocks - why is that a thing?
We’ve all been there. You follow a TV show, or heard about a new film coming out. So you log on to your streaming service and...it’s not there. Or worse yet, you read the dreaded words “Content not available in your country”.
Licensing companies and TV networks don't want the value of their shows to decrease, so they build clauses into their contracts that force streaming services to secure content by region and country. That means a new sale for every different country they provide it to.
When TV executives hear those words, they hear the sound of cash registers ringing in their ears.
Geo blocks mean TV boss stonks
For that reason, streaming services or gaming platforms use geolocation services to provide different content to different locations. Your IP address tells the provider where you are in the world, and that tells them what shows or content they can make available to you.
For a company, geo-blocking restricts certain content to areas that aren't the target market. In that way they can have full control over who gets the content and, most importantly, when they get it.
In plenty of cases, with the most popular series they just make certain countries wait longer to build anticipation amongst viewers, after a new show has gone viral on social media or has had great reviews in the press.
Often the best content is only available in the USA, Canada and the UK, even on the same streaming service. And there is now a trend that most of the new content becomes available in USA first, and it can take a long time, if not forever, for it to appear in your country.
And they really don’t want you to beat the system. Many streaming servers try to prevent clever internet users from getting around their geographical blocks. To do that, they “blacklist” certain products, like VPNs, which can help.
Blacklisting is a control mechanism that prevents users from accessing a particular service if they have a certain piece of software installed; it’s like a block list. Using industry standard technologies to blacklist popular VPNs, streaming platforms ensure that users don’t fool the system by using virtual locations. But - they can’t stop all VPNs.
A closed internet
It is not only streaming services who use the tactic of cutting the digital world up with borders, just like the real one. Plenty of websites suffer the same fate. Geo-blocking can also be used to limit access to internet content based on location overall, and restricts the availability of specific internet content and sites to a geographical location.
That means your favourite online games, gambling websites or just content that your country’s authorities don’t like can be blocked from you, and that your version of the internet is curated by someone other than you. The same strategy of dividing the world into multiple markets, with different paid for products in every one, isn’t just limited to TV and film.
Most of us don’t realise that every time we log on without using a VPN, our Internet Service Provider and the authorities of our country are choosing what we get to see online and what we don’t, because it’s mostly done without us realising that it’s happening.
For example, your country’s authorities might not like a particular social media site, so they block you from reaching it, but have an alternative which they do allow. Your ISP might, if you live in the USA, be throttling your bandwidth when you use one streaming service, but allowing your streams to flow perfectly on another, all because they have a deal with the second one but not the first.
Ultimately, if you don’t hide your IP using a VPN, your location is available information to be abused by whichever corporations want to take advantage of it and limit your view of the online world.
How to stop the block
It’s pretty simple really. Use a VPN and be where you need to be. If you have a VPN service, you can choose a server across a number of countries in the world to give you the access you need. If “this content is not available in your country” just connect to a server in the USA, or the UK, and it probably will be.
Having a VPN tears down the imaginary borders which have been created online and allows you to experience the internet as it was meant to be - free, open and unlimited.