While streaming content online, you might have experienced geo-restrictions on different sources. This is a result of geo-blocking or geo-filtering – an act of restricting or limiting access to specific websites or internet services based on the user’s geographical location. It works by monitoring your IP address and checking your login location, followed by authorizing or denying access to certain content. While you can bypass geo-blocks with the help of a VPN, this is not the only option available.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the reasons behind geo-blocking, how it works, and what is an alternative available for the VPN.
Main Reasons for Why Geo-Blocking Happens
The purpose of geo-blocking can be ideological, commercial, or political. It varies depending on the company behind it. Here, we highlight a few of them:
Copyrights and Licenses
Of all the reasons for geo-blocking, the most common is copyright and licensing, where location-based digital rights management plays a major part. Some licensing agreements don’t permit you to distribute your digital content in certain geographical locations (cities, states, or countries). In this scenario, you may want to geo-block your content to avoid breaching licensing regulations and copyright laws.
Some websites and internet services have to use geo-blocking per certain countries’ legal laws and regulations. At present, the Chinese government is using the most common type of censorship to prevent any dissent from the people. The topics that are off-limits to the Chinese people continue to grow daily. North Korea also practices geo-blocking censorship over locals. While ordinary North Koreans can only access the national intranet called Kwangmyong, access to the internet is only for high-ranking government officials.
Another reason why geo-blocking happens is to segment different markets. Since some markets may have different pricing, languages, and preferred content, a streaming service will customize an experience to a particular area. This is why some services are not available in certain countries altogether. Also, irrelevant users may even cause a bandwidth issue, restricting access to your target market, which is unreasonable.
To businesses, geo-restrictions are effective tools to maximize their profits. Offering products to target audiences helps companies achieve the highest revenue. They work by applying geo-blocking and permitting the local users to access only their products. This, as a result, makes them the only sellers in their region and maximizes their profits.
Internal Content Use
Sometimes, companies don’t want to allow users to access their content worldwide as their digital assets are for internal use only. For instance, if they use videos for internal training and onboarding, they will only allow access to that content within their office. This technique is known as geo-fencing. Even when the internal content can be accessed through credentials and passwords, you can geo-block that content within your company’s location to add an additional layer of security to your content.
How Geo-Blocking Works
Geographical blocking works by using tracking and geolocation technology to identify your Internet Protocol (IP) address. Each device on the web has a unique IP address with geographic information provided by your internet service provider (ISP). When you visit a site, your device sends its IP address to the site server, thus informing where the site server has to send the requested content. With specialized software, it is possible to determine the approximate geographical location of your device. If your IP address is from a region where a certain site should be blocked, the software set up by site administrators applies geo-blocking based on this information.
Use Proxies to Bypass Geo-Blocking
Unless you mask your original IP address, there is no way of avoiding geo-restrictions. Therefore, it is essential to learn about different options that allow bypassing regional blocks. Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the most commonly used method for hiding your IP address and accessing geo-blocked content. It works by encrypting your connection by transferring the traffic data via a server located in a different geographical area.
However, VPNs aren’t perfect. It slows down your internet speed since the data doesn’t go directly to the hosting server. Sometimes, they provide unstable connections, causing you to get blocked from certain websites, and they can even sell your data to third parties. Another factor is cost – many free VPNs are available, but most of them are scams.
So, the most affordable and effective alternative to VPN is the proxy server. A proxy server hides your IP identity by sending traffic via a remote machine connecting you to the host server. They are ideal for basic operations like anonymous web browsing and handling and circumventing content restrictions. For example, to access content on the US website, you can use a US proxy. The website will see an IP address from the US instead of your current location when you use a US proxy.
Learn more about US proxy here.
When comparing proxies vs. VPNs, both are good for private web browsing and changing IP addresses. But there is no encryption in proxy servers, which makes them vulnerable to interception. VPNs function on an OS level, whereas proxies operate on the application level. However, it is the affordability and speed of a proxy that makes it a great alternative to a VPN. On the whole, proxy servers work great for low-risk situations like accessing geographically-restricted web sources and content.
While we can admit that VPNs have their uses in different areas, they are not the only option available to access geo-blocked content, hide your IP address, and enhance security. Proxy servers offer similar features but sometimes at a comparatively lower cost.