You are going to be disappointed

The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

Netflix, the popular content distribution network, continues to make news regarding its crackdown against customers who surreptitiously access Netflix via a proxy server or virtual private network (VPN) that allows users to obscure their real geographic locations. Netflix has 29 million customers worldwide, and it is estimated the company has now alienated several million of them, not just in Mexico.

It is abundantly clear that customers around the world want access to the US Netflix content and could not care less that this would technically be violating international copyright agreements. A Netflix spokeswoman admitted, “People will always try and find ways to get the content they want no matter the technological barriers.”

Technically and historically, I see this situation as ridiculous. Netflix is not the first company to try restricting access. Two years ago, Hulu tried to limit access for their customers who were using VPNs and proxies. Hulu’s attempt failed miserably because many VPN providers quickly found ways to bypass the restrictions. In the end, Hulu did not have the resources to play cat-and-mouse with all their customers who were circumventing geo-restrictions because it was one cat versus a huge number of mice.

If you settle in one evening to enjoy Netflix and instead you receive a message saying you are not authorized to watch, it probably means that, in spite of trying to hide your location, you have been found out. I have received calls from a dozen users in San Miguel de Allende who have had this experience.

Some readers who were hoping that this column was going to be a step-by-step computer hacker’s how-to guide for how to beat the system are probably going to be disappointed; that is not what this is. If you are already a scofflaw, then you know how to use a VPN to receive Netflix. If you are not already doing so, then now might not be the best time to start.

The current situation is quite fluid. Many VPN services are now coming up with solutions to unblock Netflix. Some of them are blatantly advertising, so a quick Google search is sure to find companies that do this. Meanwhile, Netflix says it is constantly changing its VPN-blocking technology.

One has to question the thinking of Netflix management for creating this situation in the first place. Did the company honestly believe its customers from Argentina to Zambia would fail to notice that the Netflix service in their country was nowhere near as complete as the US service? Did it think customers would gladly pay the same price for limited service in their home country when simply by using a VPN or proxy they could access the better US service? Netflix is certainly to blame for not aggressively blocking international customers from using VPNs and proxies until millions were already doing so.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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