For anyone who lives outside the US (or is a US citizen but goes outside the country for vacation), one of the more frustrating aspects of most of the TV streaming services I wrote about earlier is that they are restricted to users accessing the site from the United States. On the flip-side, the BBC’s iPlayer is restricted to UK users only, because the BBC is funded by the British public.
OK, fine, I understand the BBC position. If I paid taxes to sponsor the programming, I might be miffed if the rest of the world had free access too. But what if you are a UK resident who happens to go on holiday to another part of Europe? Should you really have to miss “EastEnders?” I say, “no.”
Update: The comments, and some subsequent research on my part, confirm that Hulu and some of the other US-based providers are now doing geo-checks at the RTSP stream level, so a HTTP proxy bypass won’t work. CBS.com will still work with a proxy workaround, and obviously, BBC’s iPlayer.
Right now, using a VPN, which is usually going to cost some money (around $15 – $20 should get you enough bandwidth for several months, depending on what service you use), is the best workaround. I’ll keep investigating.
Now, I want to be clear, although there are many types of proxy servers with varying degrees of anonymity, that is beyond the scope of this post. This is strictly for accessing video (or audio) content that blocks or allows access based on region.
By connecting your browser through a proxy server from another country, you can access information that might otherwise be blocked. Although almost all modern web browsers will allow you to alter your proxy settings at will, Firefox is generally the easiest browser to configure.
You want to start by installing FoxyProxy or another proxy manager. FoxyProxy replaces the default Firefox proxy setting in Preferences and is extremely easy to configure and turn off and on. You can even set up certain rules for using a proxy only when you access certain sites, making the experience even more autonomous.
After installing FoxyProxy (just allow the default setup unless you want to configure advanced settings for yourself), the next step is to find an available, and free proxy server that resides in the same place as the content you are trying to access.
You can Google “proxy server [country name]” or go to sites like this, which provide frequently updated proxy lists. Just sort by country.
Then, try a few HTTP proxies out. Enter in the IP or URL and the port into FoxyProxy. Then select the option to use that proxy for all URLS (you can just click on a list in the bottom of your Firefox status bar). That’s it!
It might take some effort to find a proxy that is in the country you are wanting to impersonate and that is not slow as molasses, but keep plugging away, I find off-peak times work best, and you are good to go.
A few additional caveats:
- Don’t access any banking sites or enter in information that is personally sensitive while using a proxy connection, unless you know the source and feel comfortable with its security.
- Some sites like Google and Wikipedia block proxy servers or limit their ability to access or contribute information.
- Many of the free proxy servers are only open for brief periods of time. Just because one connection works one day does no mean it will work the next. Or even in an hour.