Tag: Netflix

Finding a US Netflix VPN

There is something of a battle going on across the internet and it looks like it’s going to continue for a long time.  On the one side are the media giants of the internet, companies like Netflix, Amazon, BBC and Hulu who supply streaming media services to millions across the planet, on the other are the users of these services who use the better VPN services when they access the internet.   The growth of the VPN (virtual private network) has been pretty incredible, once they were primarily used for very high security connections such as people dialing back into corporate networks to access confidential servers.  Nowadays millions of people use them for everyday browsing and accessing secure sites online, they also use them to bypass the various blocks and filters which have been established by the media companies – but what is really the a good US Netflix VPN.

This is a big problem for the media companies, many of whom have very specific licensing agreements which allow them to broadcast in specific countries.  This however has led to huge disparities in the service offered across different countries – the Netflix service in some countries offers a very small proportion of the movies and shows available in US Netflix for example.   Not surprisingly people use VPNs to allow them to switch to the better services, in fact it is estimated that there were nearly half a million Australian Netflix subscribers before it was even available in that country! The practice was pretty much ignored until recently, most of the media companies blocked the easier to detect proxies but didn’t do anything about the many VPN users, until recently.

There’s obviously something happening behind the scenes, likely the content providers themselves are forcing the media companies to enforce the licensing agreements.  It’s  a crazy situation where online media is still licensed in this way, instead of globally which is after all how the internet was meant to work.   The reality is that millions of VPN users are now finding their service blocked or restricted in the wake of this clampdown.  Netflix have been particularly aggressive in blocking access to people using a VPN, it used to be simple but now you’re liable to get the following message –

US Netflix VPN

Quite a friendly, happy message but it’s meant millions have been either blocked completely from accessing Netflix or restricted to using the one offered in their own country.    Some VPNs still work, however before I give some clues to how to choose a US Netflix VPN I’d first like to clarify a couple of points that I see in comments on this site and across the internet.

  • First, a VPN is not illegal, criminal or anything like that.  It is perfectly legitimate to use a VPN all the time when you connect to the internet and many millions do to protect their security and privacy.
  • You are also not committing a criminal act by using an American VPN to access US Netflix from somewhere like Canada, UK or Europe.   At the very worst you are breaking the Netflix Terms and Conditions and could get your subscription cancelled – though it’s not happened to anyone yet as far as I’m aware.
  • VPNs are now useless because they can be detected by media websites, this is incorrect.  A VPN service still provides you with encryption and privacy whilst you’re online and they are still very smart thing to use particularly if you’re travelling and using unknown Wifi hot spots and networks.  The media companies block these VPN connections by building up lists of IP addresses which they suspect to be VPNs.

This is the reality of the situation, although it’s virtually impossible to detect the use of a VPN – companies like Netflix can build up lists of IP addresses used by VPN services and put them into a black list denied access.    This is quite easy to do, they simply target high profile online services who advertise a lot and they also monitor which IP addresses are used for multiple, simultaneous connections.

When choosing the best VPN for Netflix and other services, there’s a few simple rules to follow.  Firstly look for a low key web site which doesn’t openly advertise the facility to watch these services.  One of my favorite pre-purge options for watching US Netflix was a successful company called Overplay and their Smart DNS service, their servers were among the first to be blocked and stopped working for me several months ago for Netflix.  They have also aggressively targeted the online TV watching facilities, both directly on their websites and through advertising.

Choose a VPN service which doesn’t mention the media companies, they still work the same way but are less likely to get blocked.

Be cautious, particularly if your primary requirement is a VPN to watch a specific region of Netflix.  What is currently happening, is a cat and mouse game – Netflix will block a range of IP addresses and access will be blocked, the VPN service will switch out these ranges and replace with others enabling them to work with Netflix again.  This has been continuing over the last few months and there’s no way of knowing how long this will last.   It is time consuming and expensive for both sides in the war, and the result probably depends on whether Netflix continues their efforts to block all VPN servers.

Update – July 7th 2016, Netflix have now blocked almost all VPN services from accessing their site by restricting access to only residential IP addresses. However . have issued an update and expanded their network to include residential addresses. I’ve been testing for a couple of weeks and it now works perfectly for US Netflix – you can try their . here. It’s now not only the Best VPN for Netflix but one of the only ones that now works, currently you can only access the US version of Netflix but that’s expected to expand although this is the version that most VPN users want access to.

Broken Smart DNS for US Netflix – Here’s the Fix

There’s a bit of a war starting online, and it looks like it might get a bit nasty.  Only a few days ago, Netflix announced that they would be launching a Australian/New Zealand version of it’s popular media streaming site.   There was one slight issue though for the global media giant, it estimated there were already over 200,000 Netflix US members already streaming from Australia. Now this wasn’t some strange mass exodus of US citizens in search of Aussie beer and TV. It referred to  the fact that loads of Australian’s fed up with the local online offerings and their TV stations were using programs like . to stream US Netflix already.

Unblock and Watch American Netflix in Canada using VPN or Smart DNS proxies

They were also using some configured proxies, although mostly these don’t work any more and the new Smart DNS technology to bypass the blocks. Normally when you sign up for a Netflix account, you actually receive a global enabled one.  This means that what you see is actually based on your location.  So my UK Netflix account turns into a US one when I’m physically in the USA, it’s a German account when in Germany and so on.  Which is fine except for one small problem, the US version of Netflix has literally thousands more films, movies and TV shows than any other version. The UK version of Netflix is ok, but the US version is awesome.

So everyone started to use methods which hide their IP addresses and get access to the US version of Netflix (although Canadian Netflix isn’t too bad either).  One of the most important was Smart DNS, which is the easiest way to get access on devices like Smart Phones, Smart TVs and other such devices.   This is the service I use and it comes highly recommended. But that looks like it was stopping, over the last few weeks Netflix has updated it’s client software on these devices and built in something that stops Smart DNS working (here’s exactly how Smart DNS works).   Now on any of these updated devices, you can only access your legitimate country version of Netflix, which means if you’re not in a Netflix enabled country you can’t watch it at all. Basically they’ve updated their systems so that third party DNS servers can’t be used to resolve the addresses of the Netflix Site.  This means that none of the Smart DNS solutions work any more.

How to Fix Broken Smart DNS for Netflix

Fortunately there is a solution which follows, I have demonstrated on my router a Netgear WNDR 4500 but you should be able to do this on most decent routers. Basically Netflix is forcing everyone to use specific DNS servers, the Open DNS and Google ones, in order to stop the Smart DNS trickery working.  The fix ensures that these DNS servers are not accessible and the client will then go back to the Smart DNS ones – So here’s the fix, first go into your routers configuration screens – mine is accessed by putting it’s internal ip address into a browser . i.e. http://192.168.1.1 which gives me this screen. netgear-smartdnsfix1 You then need to move down to Advanced settings and select Static Routes.  From this screen we need to make sure that the four public DNS servers that Netflix is trying to force us to use are not accessible. fixrbokensmartdns2

Here’s the screen (click to enlarge), and you need to simply add a route for each DNS server to ensure it never gets to it’s destination.
Commonly the information required is –  Destination IP address – the address of the DNS servers as follows:

  • 8.8.8.4  Google DNS
  • 8.8.8.8 Google DNS2
  • 208.67.222.222 Open DNS
  • 209.244.0.3   Open DNS

Subnet Mask  – Put in 255.255.255.255 Gateway IP address – Your Router or a made up internal IP address – mines set to a PC 192.168.1.253 Metric – 2 This should ensure that none of your devices will be able to access any of these DNS servers, thwarting Netflix’s plan and making Smart DNS work yet again – hooray!!  The last check to see if it’s working is to ping any of the devices to see if they can be accessed. pingcheck-dns Here’s an example, you can see the Google DNS server is not reachable.  Now Netflix runs like a dream again and connects to the USA version without a hitch.  This obviously relies on you having a router which allows static routes to be set up, however this is not always possible – the crappy routers most ISPs hand out are usually locked down so you can’t get access to these.   There are other potential solutions which I’ll check out and hopefully post up here if I get chance.

The Netflix Throttling Mystery – The VPN Solution?

There is of course a big problem with the most popular sites on the internet, and that’s the amount of  traffic they generate.  As our use of media sites like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Hulu which stream video across the net increase then so do the costs for the people who have to carry that traffic – the ISP.

IS Netflix Being Throttled

It’s kind of tough when you think about it, each time someone subscribes to Netflix, the ISP of that customer will see their traffic usage sky rocket.  Combine this with some users downloading hundreds of Gigabytes a week from BitTorrent sites and you can see there problem.  Each customer will cost more and more to support, while these other companies effectively transmit their service over your infrastructure.   If all ISPs charged a bandwidth costs, that wouldn’t matter much – but the current status is that due to competition most offer unmetered access.

The big telecoms giants in America seem to have come up with a solution, although it’s not a terribly popular one.  Comcast and Verizon are being increasingly suspected of throttling traffic to these sites, especially to the vastly popular Netflix.  This effectively means that your data is un-metered normally but the speed will be capped when you access specific sites or transmit certain data like streaming video or accessing BBC iPlayer, Netflix or Hulu for example.

On the whole, this behavior is generally denied, it’s commercially bad news to admit that you will cripple the speed of some of the world’s most popular sites.  It’s of course, extremely annoying to watch a film and wait every ten minutes for it to buffer!

The evidence is mounting and some users on Comcast and Verizon have discovered that if they stream video over a VPN connection then they see huge speed increases.  A virtual private network of course shouldn’t increase your speed at all, you are adding another hop to the journey of your data, plus a layer of encryption too.  Although the fastest VPN providers like . will normally see minimal performance impact you wouldn’t expect to see a huge speed boost.

Speeding Up Netflix Yet this is what seems to be happening to many – stream direct from Netflix and your connection will struggle.   Fire up a VPN connection and stream through that some people are getting 10 or 20 times the throughput.  This increase has been reported by many people who have repeated the test using different sites and VPNs.

There are some other potential explanations, one of the most plausible is that some network pipes are simply becoming saturated.  If Netflix traffic is normally travelling down specific links to reach these big telecom providers, then there’s going to be a huge amount of traffic there.   Watching Netflix in the USA over a VPN will provide an alternate route, perhaps one with little congestion – hence the speed boost.

The jury’s out at the moment, both these scenarios could be true.  It’s definitely the case that using a VPN not only allows you access to the different language variants of sites like Netflix (Canadian or UK users can get US Netflix for example) but also boosts speed significantly.

Region Free DNS – Smart DNS Review – Changing a Device’s IP Address

Wow what a geeky title,  well hopefully this post isn’t too dull but it’s inspired by a few emails  – so here’s a kind of introduction/Smart DNS review in response.  Now a lot of us, are living a pretty region free life online, with the use of certain programs and services we are not blocked and redirected based on our location.  So I don’t have to watch the vastly inferior version of Netflix just because I’m currently in the United Kingdom, I can watch the US Version instead or when travelling I can watch the BBC iPlayer abroad!  It’s all pretty straight forward on a computer, laptop or smartphone – load up the program, switch servers or  use a DNS service and you can choose your own virtual location with a false IP address.

Here’s the basic steps for a PC –

Can’t see the video above? You can find it on YouTube it’s all about Smart DNS But of course the world is not that simple, and many of us have different devices that are getting blocked.  Media streamers, Smart TVs and games consoles; just like our computers.

These just like our computers can get blocked based on their location too, and there’s no obvious way to manually configure network settings, especially if you don’t have the right IT infrastructure.  Installing a sophisticated security program written for a PC or MAC isn’t going to work but how about these innovative DNS services that a couple of the leading VPN/Proxy providers have developed.  These services work across all sorts of platforms – phones, games consoles, Smart TVs, tablets and computers – in fact virtually anything which has access to the internet. So as it’s a smart DNS review, here’s the Smart DNS Service I Use – click on the link for a free 14 day trial too!

Smart DNS Proxy

In case you don’t know Smart-DNS is a sort of halfway house to unblocking geo-restricted media content online.  It basically routes part of your connection through a specific server using your domain name system (DNS) settings.  So if you were interested in watching US Netflix from Europe for example, you would establish initial connections through a United States proxy server and then stream directly through your own connection  All you need to do is enable your IP address with one of these region free DNS services and then change your DNS settings on the device you need.

So I Can Change the Location of a Device like a Roku, Boxee or a Smart TV?

Yes you can but this isn’t always obvious, because many devices don’t let you alter or change network settings like DNS servers.

How Can I Change Roku Network Settings

How Can I Change Roku Network Settings

So let’s take for example this device, the amazing Roku (which really is that big!)  The Roku allows you to stream content directly to a TV through an HDMI cable.  Most people use it to access Hulu, YouTube, HBO GO and similar channels, but it’s a network-enabled device meaning it is affected by the location of your IP address.Connecting a Roku to a TV in the USA alone won’t enable users to use BBC iPlayer and similar geographically-restricted channels.

Smart DNS is ideal for this sort of situation: it’s not a full-blown virtual private network (VPN) connection like this, but should be just enough to fool the media-streaming site into the location you specify. Except the Roku (like most streaming devices) has no network configuration settings; you cannot manually modify its IP address nor its DNS server. It’s why you’ll often see people stumped and asking on forums – how to change Roku IP address because it’s certainly not obvious.  Perhaps these are blocked for a reason. I imagine major streaming companies like Netflix wouldn’t want users to be able to access these settings – but they haven’t directly prevented these connections either. It should be noted that now Netflix will only allow access from residential IP addresses, so you should check they are available before subscribing with anyone.

Luckily you can modify the settings in most cases, either on your router directly or by using DHCP. DHCP is the protocol that sits on your routers, Wi-Fi access points and modems that assigns IP addresses for all the devices on your network.

Region Free DNS

Here’s the settings on my Netgear router which allows the device to allocate IP addresses on my internal network – you allocate a range – 192.168.1.1-192.168.1.254 in this case and each device will be assigned it’s own address when connected to this network. On a full proper DHCP service, not on this particular router example, you can specify other details including which DNS server to use. You could also set up your own DHCP server on a computer for allocation there are loads of free versions you can use. For Smart DNS to work you only need to assign the specific Smart DNS server to the device you want to work. So I could assign a specific DNS server to my Roku remotely, which could either be a US, UK or any country employable by the service you use. In my situation with this router, I would just assign the Smart DNS setting to the router itself in the DNS settings. All this does is enable everything in my network to use  the Smart DNS setting which in many cases is more suitable for people.

DNS Settings on Router

These are normally in Internet or LAN settings on your router. Instead of using the assigned settings from your ISP, specify the Smart DNS ones you received from your provider – in my case, Overplay. If you’re lucky the DHCP service on your router will allow you to specify the DNS settings like this TPlink one. assign-dnsto-roku Once you’ve assigned your new Smart DNS settings to your router, every device connect to your Wi-Fi network would also be assigned to the Smart DNS settings – that’s your Roku, iPhone, Smart TV…whatever. If you want a particular device to have different DNS settings, simply assign them locally on the device – they will not be overwritten by DHCP. I should however urge a word of caution particularly due to my tests: the above works fine for most devices when assigning DNS settings to devices on your network.

But there is a possibility that your device may be regionally locked in some fashion which would prevent you using region free DNS. The earlier Roku’s were, and I’ve heard reports of some Smart TVs and media streamers doing the same.  Basically they force these devices to use something like Google DNS servers by default, therefore overriding any DNS servers you set.    If DNS requests are hard coded into the device, you are either going to have to block them or accept it isn’t going to work properly.  One of the main issues is using Smart DNS Netflix requests as they seem to be forcing manufacturers to enforce their geo-restrictions in their hardware.

I would recommend checking for a specific device’s compatibility by starting with a short-term region Free DNS subscription first. . has a 1-month plan starting at less than $5 USD, perfect for testing the service to make sure it supports whichever device you want to use.