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Why is it so difficult to watch one country’s television when you’re in another country? For goodness sake – we are all global citizens. Aren’t we? And the Internet is a global phenomenon. Isn’t it? You can send emails from Kazakhstan to the Solomon Islands and you can sit snug at home in Iceland looking at Australian websites, checking out possible holiday options that have something you don’t get at home – warm sunshine. So why can’t you watch some other country’s TV?
Take GlobalTV, for example. Why is it called Global if the only place you can watch it is in Canada? What’s the point of giving a channel a name like GlobalTV and then geo-blocking it so that only people in Canada can watch?
Well, in fact, there are some very good reasons why most, if not all, television stations around the world use geo-blocking and the most important reason is: Rights. A channel has bought the rights to someone else’s program, but only for its own country. If it lets someone in another country watch it, it will be breaking the deal it signed. Or it made a program, so at first sight it may look as though it can show it to anyone anywhere – but just hold on a minute. The program has been very successful. Television companies in countries around the world have bought the rights to show that program in their countries. They paid the channel for those rights. So, once again, if the channel lets someone in one of those countries watch the program on its own channel then, even though this is its own program that it made itself, it will be breaking the deal it signed.
So that’s why it’s so difficult to watch one country’s television channel when you’re somewhere else in the world.
But you may not want to accept that. Perhaps you’re a Canadian on holiday or on business in another country. You look at the schedule in the place where you currently are and you see that they are showing the very program that you don’t want to miss. But (and isn’t it a fact that there is almost always a but?), the episode they’ve reached here is not the same as the one they’re going to be showing back home in Mississauga. So, if you watch it here, on this country’s channel, you will either be watching an episode you saw at home six weeks ago or you will be missing out several weeks of episodes and you won’t know why what you are watching is happening.
Or you’re not a Canadian, in fact you’ve never been there, but you have relatives in Canada or friends in Canada and they’ve told you about a program they watch and think is wonderful and it doesn’t seem to be shown in your country. You want to see it. You find out it’s on GlobalTV and you try to connect, only to discover that you are blocked. GlobalTV only allows people in Canada to watch it. That’s people who are physically located in Canada – having a Canadian passport while visiting Bulgaria doesn’t count.
So that’s it, then? You want to watch the program on GlobalTV but you just have to accept that you can’t? Oh no, you don’t. Not since someone invented VPNs. But, before we talk about VPNs and what they do, let’s talk about how geo-blocking works.
IP stands for Internet Protocol and every device attached to the Internet has its own IP address. In most cases, at least for private individuals, the address will be different every time they log on, because it’s allocated by the ISP (Internet Service Provider) at the moment of logging on – though many companies and some individuals do have fixed or static IP addresses. For our purposes, none of that matters; what does matter is that your ISP tells anyone who cares to look where you are.
You may have noticed that, quite often, when you access a website it seems to know where you are even though you haven’t told it. So, for example, it might pop up a little message saying that there’s a dandy new diner just opened up in your town. If you’ve seen that, you may well have wondered how they knew which town you were in because you certainly haven’t named it. Wonder no more – they know because they’ve looked at your IP address and your IP address told them. Now that we’ve made that clear, we can talk about how VPNs work.
A VPN is a virtual private network. They are used for all sorts of purposes. One is to ensure total security and privacy on an Internet that, let’s be frank, leaks like a sieve and provides a home to a great many people whose moral scruples don’t exist and whose every instinct is criminal. They are out to steal things from you. A VPN can help keep you safe. But for our purposes in this article, a VPN is simply a very efficient way to stream content that should be geo-blocked in the place where you are.
It does that by allocating you an IP address in the country where the content you want to stream is available without blocking. So, in the case of GlobalTV, you would use your VPN app to connect to a server in Canada, the server would allocate you an IP address that makes GlobalTV assume that you are in Canada, and then you can watch your program. Wonderful!
Whatever you are planning to use your VPN for, there are some things the VPN provider should have. It can be based anywhere in the world – it doesn’t have to be Canada – but it must have VPN servers in Canada. It needs to be reliable and it needs to deliver very high-speed connections, because you will soon become bored watching a program that keeps stopping while the buffer is refilled. It needs military level encryption and decryption as well as the best possible protection against malware. It must, of course, work on any device that you are likely to use and you should look for a service that can operate on all the devices you have at the same time. There should be an automatic kill switch so that, if your VPN connection accidentally drops, you are removed from the screening so that nobody sees that you are not where you should be. For the sake of privacy, it should keep no logs or other records of who has logged on to what. Here are three you might care to look at:
This provider has more than 5000 servers around the world, more than 350 of which are in Canada. It has a very clever feature called SmartPlay, which detects which server you should be connected to and automatically transfers you there with no need for you to do anything. It’s known for its very high speed, it has a thirty day money back guarantee and it’s very easy to set up.
It’s very fast, it has lots of servers and some of them are in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montréal. Thirty day money back guarantee, easy to set up and easy to use. If you get bored with GlobalTV, switch effortlessly to Netflix, BBC iPlayer (and the new app the BBC is introducing to replace it), Amazon Prime Video and lots of others.
Great speed, a free trial and a money back guarantee, and specialist servers for the websites you’re likely to want most (including GlobalTV).