Understanding what geo-blocked content is and ways to access it

If you live in the US or the UK, it may be hard for you to understand the frustration of being unable to access content in other parts of the world that are readily available to you. Be it using proxy servers or VPN for the UK citizens, you may never worry about accessing geo-blocked content but your counterparts in several other countries may not be that lucky or aware of such solutions to tide over content restrictions or geo-blocking.

You may not believe it but that’s what happens in several countries across the globe such as in China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, and many more. From blocking social media, torrents, and political media to limiting access to some specific sites, people in these countries can no longer think of the World Wide Web as being freely and easily accessible to them.

The problem isn’t just limited to such censorship on the internet. There are many regions where internet access is still pretty limited. According to a 2017 article in the Telegraph, UK, fewer than one in five residents of the 35 countries can access the internet owing to a lack of infrastructure. Some of the countries that featured on this list are Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Senegal, El Salvador, Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Sudan, Libya, Eritrea, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, D.R. Congo, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Madagascar, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, and Myanmar, among others.

Why it’s important to be able to access geo-blocked content?

You may ask why it is so important to access restricted or geo-blocked content.There are several reasons with different levels of importance and urgency but the basic premise of all remains the same – the decision to watch, read or access content should lie with the individuals and not get decided or guided by some other organization or the state or the national government. Here are some reasons that make access to geo-blocked content necessary:   

  • Educational tasks: Be it a school or college project for students, creating course work and having reference material that the teachers may need, getting an idea of the educational system or curriculum of peers at other parts of the world, free access to the internet becomes important for educational purposes.

  • Research work: For research in various fields – IT, science, communication and transportation, retail, medicine, etc. you will need access to certain facts and figures that can help you arrive at a decision or even plan your own course of work.  Unless you can freely access whatever you need on the internet, your research work is sure to run into trouble.

  • Entertainment: Be it accessing content on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or other streaming platforms that aren’t available in your region, or getting your hands on a new video game that’s released in some other part of the world days or months before it comes to your region, entertainment is a big reason why people try to get easy access to geo-blocked content.

  • Staying updated on the world and regional happenings: National governments in some countries often stop access to local or international news that they believe could trigger violence or unrest in the country, or the ones that show them in poor light. However, as a global citizen, you need to be aware of such incidents that are getting the spotlight everywhere else in the world.

Top ways to access geo-blocked content

VPN – the best of the lot

It’s probably the most popular and best option to access content that is blocked in your own country because it lets your traffic pass through an encrypted connection and you come out on the other side of the tunnel. Say, you are based in China and want to access US-based services (such as a particular Wikipedia page, or a program on Netflix, or a specific article published in a US Journal), you would need to use a US-based server that has adequate upload and download bandwidth to suit your needs. And that’s where a VPN can help.

When you use a VPN, your real IP address stays hidden as your VPN replaces it with the IP address of the VPN server you connect to. This makes any website that you want to connect to (such as US or UK-based sites or steaming services, etc.) see just the VPN server’s IP address and take it as yours. Thus, you will be able to get easy access to content that isn’t otherwise available in your region. However, you should ideally opt for a paid VPN because the ones promising free services often work very slowly or restricts your use up to a specific amount of bandwidth, which may hinder your work or online entertainment.

Other options

You may even explore some other options to bypass internet censorship and access geo-blocked content. These include using a smart DNS, or a proxy server, or Tor.