The main reason most people take up pirating is, in my opinion, not out of spite. Nor is it because they refuse to reward the content creators. In the end it all comes down to usability. Pirating is often more user-friendly than paying for your content.
Regardless, people are willing to go to great lengths to access their content. And great lengths are indeed required, as content often doesn’t become available for a big part of the world until months after its initial release. More so, even though there are websites like Hulu and Netflix boasting the infrastructure to offer that media globally, they actively work to keep people out.
If you want to watch region-blocked videos on your iPhone or iPad, or entertain yourself with region-blocked apps, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands.
1. Proxy And VPN Services
To access region-blocked content, proxy and VPN (virtual private network) services work in largely a similar fashion. You’re unable to access the region-blocked content because the computer recognizes your computer (or rather, its IP address) as being outside the serviceable zone. So, instead of connecting directly to the server and giving away your location, you connect to an intermediary client that does reside in the serviceable zone.
In the case of a proxy, you connect through another client. All your browser activity is routed through that intermediary client. A VPN, on the other hand, denotes network. You connect to a network with serviceable clients and your browser activity is once again routed through an intermediary client. The big difference then is that a proxy is placed between your web browser and the server; it only reroutes the websites you visit through the intermediary client. A VPN reroutes all your network activity, including instant messaging, VoIP, and such. A connection over a VPN can also incorporate additional security measures to protect your communication (emphasizing the P in VPN).
As Chris Hoffman discussed at length in his recent article VPNs Are Old: Better Ways to Access Region-Blocked Video, the main disadvantage of VPN’s and proxy servers is speed. Having to reroute your communications with the server through an intermediary client impacts the speed and latency of your internet connection. A chain is only as strong (or as fast) as its weakest link.
If you’re connecting over a high-quality proxy server or VPN, its speed should exceed that of your internet connection or, at the very least, the access speed of the region-blocked content. However, because of its nature, there’s always a chance that you’ll outpace the service’s speed, especially in the case of high-traffic utilities. Freely available web proxies can be useful in some cases, but usually can’t handle the traffic load that comes with streaming video.
The VPN I’m fond of using is called Netshade. Like most VPNs, Netshade requires you to pay a usage fee. Although Netshade offers a 3-month Proxy+VPN or a 1 year Proxy plan for $29, the best value option is the year-long Proxy+VPN plan for $59. This will give you access to Netshade’s Proxy and VPN services, which are most easily managed through the free Mac and iOS applications.
To configure your iOS device for using Netshade, open the Preferences app. Under Wi-Fi, tap the blue arrow next to the currently selected network. At the very bottom of the next screen, under HTTP proxy, select Auto and enter “http://pac.netshade.net/“, without quotes.
Next, download and install the free Netshade app from the iTunes App Store. Tapping Device Setup will help you with the step above. If you’ve already added the proxy address to your settings, hit Launch Netshade. From here, you can already select a proxy server and start accessing region-blocked content. Netshade comes with premium proxies for several locales, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Germany and France. Optionally, user proxies can be added manually.
If you want to use Netshade’s VPN, you can automatically configure your iOS device from the VPN tab. This will install a VPN profile to your device. After installing this profile, you can select a locale in the VPN tab in your Preferences. Note that if you’re using the VPN, you don’t need to select a proxy in the Netshade iOS app.
There are a lot of other VPN services besides Netshade. One such alternative is provided by Tunnelbear, which was reviewed in detail by Erez Zukerman. Compared with Netshade, Tunnelbear offers a more attractive pricing plan, but only a US and UK VPN. Contrary to Netshade, Tunnelbear also offers a Windows desktop client. Interestingly, Tunnelbear offers a free version with 500 MB transfer per month. You can earn an additional 1GB by tweeting about the service, each month. The monthly $9.99 (temporarily $4.99) plan offers unlimited data usage, whereas you can purchase 1 year’s worth of unlimited Tunnelbear for $60 (temporarily $49.99).
To install Tunnelbear, download the free app from the iTunes app store. Tunnelbear offers only VPN and no Proxy servers, so the setup process is slightly less convoluted. Simply install the iOS settings when prompted by Tunnelbear. Similar to Netshade, you can then select a locale in the Preferences VPN tab.
1.4 The Speed of Switching Regions
If you want to enjoy the American Hulu, as well as the UK BBC iPlayer, you’ll have to switch between regions. This can be done by selecting a different VPN profile in your iOS settings. Although this doesn’t take a lot of work, the work adds up when you have to switch between different regions more often.
2. DNS Tunneling Services
As Chris argued in his article on VPNs and DNS tunneling, the latter offers most of the same benefits, but with hardly any of the disadvantages of VPNs. Instead of rerouting all your traffic through an intermediary client, DNS tunneling works its magic to let you connect directly to the target server. Better yet, DNS tunneling can differentiate between different websites, meaning you can keep browsing regular websites as usual. This means you don’t have to toggle the service on and off every time you want to access region-blocked content.
One of the DNS tunneling services that comes most highly recommended is UnoTelly’s UnoDNS. Pricing starts at $3.99 monthly. For $4.99 monthly, UnoDNS will even throw in bonus US and UK VPN’s, so you can have the best of both worlds. UnoDNS supports mosts region-blocked content, including Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, but also websites from Swiss and Norse locales. If you visit one of these website, UnoDNS will automatically help you pose as coming from the right region. This way you can have Netflix open in one tab and BBC iPlayer in another!
To set up UnoDNS, go to the Wi-Fi section of your iOS preferences and tap on the blue arrow next to the currently selected internet connection. Write down your current preferences to restore them later, or take a screenshot. Select the closest DNS server from UnoDNS’ Global DNS Clusters page and copy over the IP address in the DNS field.
Finally, fire up your web browser and head to http://unotelly.com/quickstart2/ to view a status report and finish configuring the service. If this is your first time using the service on this IP address, you’ll have to sign in with your UnoTelly account. Once you’re done, there should be a green bar topping the page.
3. Downloading Regional Apps
If you want to use locale-specific apps like Hulu and Netflix in an unsupported region, the above will certainly help. However, all that won’t do you much good unless you’re able to download the apps in question. To do this, you’ll have to create a new iTunes account from the country of the app. Luckily for us, you can download apps with a US iTunes account, log back into your own country’s account and keep using the US apps.