In Part 2, I explored the various options available for Canadian cord-cutters to access the same television content they had through their Canadian cable or satellite provider, for little to no long-term costs. While cord-cutters can now access content through the websites of major Canadian broadcasters, this still leaves another problem that is unique to Canadians. One of the major complaints among Canadian television viewers is our selection of content. In a nutshell, the selection is poor. While Canadian’s have access to some of the most popular American content through our major broadcasters, their are a lot of high quality programs that either never make it to Canada or are behind by a few seasons. One such example is the hit British television series Misfits, which is available in the United States exclusively on Hulu.
For cord cutter’s, this is particularly frustrating. Canadians are typically geo-blocked from accessing television content online through American broadcasters such as CBS and the CW, or through online streaming services such as Hulu. In practice, this means that Canadians are typically met with arrogant black screens, that often includes a message such as “The video you have requested is not available in your geographical region”. This diagram demonstrates our limitations.
Of course, we have a way around this. A tool called the Virtual Private Network (VPN). Simply put, a VPN creates a tunnel between your computer and a server in another location (e.g: the US). Once logged on, you can surf the web as if your a computer based in the United States. I am currently working out of my computer here in Ottawa, but with my VPN the internet basically thinks that I am based out of Manhattan, New York, which is the location of my VPN server. This opens up a whole new world for cord cutters who stream content online, as the diagram below demonstrates.For anybody who has subscribed to Netflix Canada, its no secret that the selection of content for Canadian’s is disappointing, unless of course your a fan of indie films or B-horror. For those who have not given Netflix Canada a try, here is a short review. Have a short attention span? Here is a witty 25 sec video review. A VPN connection gives you access to the better stocked Netflix US.
It also gives you access to Hulu, which is basically a one-shop-stop for all your television viewing content. It doesn’t have the same movie selection as Netflix, but it has deals with nearly all the major US networks. It also carries exclusive content such as Misfits. For $7.99, you can upgrade to Hulu Plus, which gives you access to entire seasons and even entire series (such as the all 6 seasons of Lost) as well as HD content. Alternately, for fans of British drama such as the EastEnders, a VPN IP based in the UK will give you access to the BBC iPlayer.
Sports fans, you can use the VPN to get around local blackout restrictions on your online streaming subscription. Just make sure that the use of the VPN doesn’t violate the terms and conditions of your subscription and\or the league.
1) To get started with a VPN, first Find a VPN service provider that providers a US-based server. I currently use StrongVPN.com and pay approximately $55 annually. You can buy a three month package to try for approximately $7 per month. As stated in Part 1, I encourage you to shop around for other service providers. I’d stick with the most reputable providers to prevent blackouts. I’ve had my current service for 6 months and have had no problems. Another reputable company is Hide My Ass!
2) Once you’ve subscribed, your VPN service provider should provide you with three pieces of information
- Host Name – This could be an IP address such as 192.168.0.1 or a server name such as wnxx.reliablehosting.com
- Username – Typically the user name used to set up your account.
- Password – Typically the password used to set up your account.
3) Once you have all your information in order, setting it up is fairly simple. StrongVPN actually provides step-by-step instructions on how to set it up. It should be as easy as connecting your computer to a Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop.
Here are the screen-by-screen instructions by Operating System: