You’ve likely heard of a VPN before — a virtual private network that secures your internet connection no matter where you are. Companies use them for workers connecting to their server outside the office. People who travel for work or spend most of their day connected to a public network will use one to keep their connection private.

Quite often, people use VPNs for their encryption and safety capabilities. There is more to a VPN, however than simply safety. You can also use a VPN to help bypass government restrictions and service provider censorships on the internet.

There are many reasons behind internet censorship. Quite often a service provider, like Netflix or other online streaming services, will block content from people outside a designated region. The censorship or geo-restrictions allow for the service providers to share their services with some while limiting it for others.

Governments may incorporate online censorships to hide and protect information. They may also block their citizens from accessing certain websites or social media that goes against their values.

No matter the reason behind it, geo-restrictions can be very frustrating for internet users, especially those who travel outside of their home country. Using a VPN allows you to legally bypass geo-restrictions to access streaming services like Netflix, and other internet services.

What is a VPN?

When you connect to a VPN, it will act as a tunnel for your data to travel through. It is this tunnel that encrypts and masks your data so that you can remain anonymous on the internet, and your information is almost impossible to access from anywhere but your device.

What is a Geo-Restriction?

Even though everyone logs on to Netflix the same way, your location will determine what type of content you have access to. The device you use to connect to Netflix has an IP address (internet protocol address). It is a series of numbers that gives your device an identity. That way, when you request access to the internet, the server knows where to send the information back to. This is how streaming services like Netflix know your location.

When a geo-restriction is in place, there will be two pools of IP addresses — those who have access and those who do not. If your IP address falls into the no access pool, you will be unable to view the content. However, if your IP address is in the access granted pool, then you’ll be able to see everything.

Now, this may not sound like a big deal at first if you have access to everything that you want. But try leaving the country and logging on to your Netflix account. You’ll be quite disappointed because there’s a good chance you won’t have access to the same content you did at home. Now the geo-restriction has become a problem.

How Does a VPN Bypass Geo-Restrictions?

Most likely it isn’t Netflix that is the one behind the restrictions. Movie copyright holders have to pay separate expensive streaming rights to different countries. When a Netflix user uses a VPN to watch a movie not licensed for their country, the copyright holder won’t get paid. Netflix, then, is likely facing pressure to crack down on VPNs.

However, this doesn’t mean it is impossible. As mentioned before, a VPN masks and encrypts the data your device sends to the server, including its IP address. If the service provider cannot detect your location, there is no way of telling if your location is in the region required to access the content. You’ll likely gain access.

For a more reliable way, though, a VPN lets you change your IP address entirely. When you download and install your VPN, it will allow you to pick a different country in the world to connect to. Someone in the UK could connect to an American server and vice versa.

Through this different connection, you would then log on to your Netflix account. It would read your new IP address which makes it look like you are in a different region than where you actually are. The new IP address will grant you access to the content you otherwise would be denied.

If you tend to travel around a lot or live in an area in which Netflix restricts its content, a VPN will save you a lot of trouble. Connect to a server in the required region and log in, it’s as simple as that.

On top of that, VPNs offer an incredible level of encryption and safety for your internet connection, which is also handy for those who travel. Stay safe online, protect your information and location, and browse the internet without hesitation from anywhere at any time.

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Ruhani Rabin being a tech and product evangelist for almost 20 years. He was VP, CPO for various digital companies. Plays with Drones in his free time.

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Ruhani Rabin

Ruhani Rabin being a tech and product evangelist for almost 20 years. He was VP, CPO for various digital companies. Plays with Drones in his free time.