I was surprised at Netflix’s announcement yesterday that:
“Some members use proxies or “unblockers” to access titles available outside their territory. To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies. We look forward to offering all of our content everywhere and to consumers being able to enjoy all of Netflix without using a proxy. That’s the goal we will keep pushing towards.”
Their announcement raised some immediate questions:
1. What about Netflix customers that use VPNs to defeat throttling by their ISP or intentional network interference by bandwidth providers?
The battles between Netflix and ISPs have been well documented. ISPs use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of unencrypted Internet connections to throttle Netflix speeds or intentionally cause interference with Netflix’s bandwidth providers. Unfortunately, end users are caught in the middle of this battle between Netflix’s pioneering efforts and providers’ attempts to hold on to their incumbent monopoly over the last mile.
Colin Nederkoorn, a frustrated Verizon customer and VyprVPN user, published a great article and video illustrating how VyprVPN allowed him to get 10x faster speeds on Netflix. Thousands of users have responded and many are wondering how a VPN actually increases speeds.
I also use our VyprVPN Router App at my house to defeat throttling by my ISP. It is important to note that Netflix or HBO streaming only requires 4-6 Mbps. Most users have a 20-100 Mpbs connection but House of Cards still buffers and is pixelated. Whether ISPs are ripping off their customers when they throttle is a different conversation, but more and more people are using VPNs to defeat throttling.
The reality is, more and more VyprVPN users inside and outside the USA tell us that their speeds actually increase when they use VyprVPN. Users are effectively using VyprVPN as their “virtual ISP” for faster speeds, but they also get security and privacy due to the encrypted connection. Common sense says that speeds would inherently slow down due to the encryption overhead, but there is more going on at the network layer to explain the increased speed.
When you encrypt your connection, your ISP cannot see your traffic or what you’re doing online. That makes it much harder for them to throttle your connection based on your activity. With VyprVPN you can achieve significantly faster speeds when streaming content. With VyprVPN you can stream at maximum speed, with less risk of buffering and slow, pixelated connections.
2. What about Netflix users that travel abroad but can’t use a service for which they paid?
Golden Frog is a global company, so I sometimes travel abroad for conferences or meetings. After a long day I enjoy going back to the hotel and watching Netflix. But, I have to use VyprVPN to watch Netflix when abroad. It seems fair, though. I have a USA Netflix account (and billing address) so I should be able to watch Netflix. If Netflix blocks VPNs, then I would have to either subject myself to insecure hotel Wi-Fi or watch TV in a foreign language. Why can’t I just use the service I have paid for when I’m traveling?
3. Why point the finger at proxies or VPNs when Netflix can use customer billing information to display the proper content to users?
I have been a Netflix customer off and on for more than a decade. I love Netflix and I love their push into creating and publishing their own content. “Making a Murderer” is a fantastic example of why I continue to be Netflix customer.
As a Netflix customer, I know that they collect my billing information, including my mailing address and country. Why doesn’t Netflix use the customer billing information to display the correct content to users?
Here at Golden Frog, we use customer billing information to reduce fraud and abuse of our network. For example, if a customer signs up using an Australian IP address but provides a United States mailing address, we may prevent the customer from using our VyprVPN service until they provide more information to our Support team.
Golden Frog is a much smaller company than Netflix. Certainly Netflix has the resources to build a system based on billing address. As the saying goes, “The simplest solution is most often the correct one.”
What does this mean for VPN Users?
It is unclear from Netflix’s statement whether they consider a VPN a proxy. We certainly don’t consider VyprVPN a proxy. But, if Netflix considers VPNs proxies and blocks VPNs, then they are greatly decreasing the privacy and security of their customers while at the same time subjecting them to predatory practices of ISPs toward the Netflix service and its users.
It’s perfectly legal to watch Netflix over a VPN service. In fact, many VyprVPN customers around the world connect to an in-country server location to get past an ISP throttling their streaming traffic. These VPN users aren’t accessing any geo-restricted content. They are simply being proactive in taking steps to optimize their Internet experience.
Thankfully, we are not experiencing any issues with Netflix access via VyprVPN at this moment.