Whether you call it a regional IP block, a geoblock, or geo-restrictions, it all refers to blocks people who aren’t from a specific reasons.
There are many reasons to keep people out–and in–a specific network by region, but the technology used to block users isn’t always sophisticated. It’s often a weak bandage that succeeds only because most people won’t bother to get around the block.
Here are a few details about geo-restrictions, along with ways to get to the content you want or need.
What Are Geo-Restrictions?
Geo-restrictions are blocks and limitations on how you get to the content you want. Content can be anything from a website to a streaming site or app.
Blocking is achieved by selecting IP (Internet Protocol) addresses that match a specific region. The block can be written a few ways:
- Allow only IP addresses from this country and block everything else.
- Block IP addresses from these regions.
- Block specific addresses.
- Allow specific address.
The last two blocks aren’t common unless you’re specifically the enemy of a website or service. Unfortunately, IP addresses can change hands fairly easily. You could be the recipient of an IP address held by an abusive hacker or a notorious troll, and administrators aren’t likely to risk unbanning one person based on a possible coincidence.
Allowing and blocking for entire regions is used to protect the rights of creators, or to stop too many people outside of the intended audience from using up network resources. If foreign user traffic doesn’t make money or doesn’t help the site towards its goals, it’s unnecessary.
How To Get Around Geo-Restrictions
One of the easiest ways to get around geo-restrictions is by using a Virtual Private Network or VPN.
A VPN (such as Surfshark, found here) is a service that protects your connection by hiding it in a secure tunnel. Your computer connects to the VPN, then takes a hidden path within the VPN’s network. Your network data is essential a series of packages loaded onto the VPN’s trucks, and no one can see what’s inside without some heavy–usually illegal–inspection.
Privacy might not be your big concern, but the way VPNs achieve security is what matters. When you use a VPN, you usually have the option to select a specific city, region, and /or country. When you select the region, just choose something that the site or service isn’t blocking.
Most major sites and services will have forum, chatroom, or even industry news surrounding who they’re blocking and why. Simply don’t be in one of the blocking categories, or choose the host nation of the site you’re trying to access.
If you can’t figure out which IP address region to use, it’s time for trial and error. Unless you’re logged in with a specific username, your attempts will look like a different person from a different part of the world with each change. It’s no different than the internet on a normal day.
Keep in mind that your internet connection performance can change depending on how you connect. Premium VPN services provide servers with tested, proven performance, while many free services simply give you a pool of common-use servers for many other free users. These free servers could disconnect every once in a while, and may not protect your identity if that’s a concern.
Examples Of Geo-Restrictions: Video
Probably the most infamous use of geo-restrictions is with streaming sites. Streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Fire TV have entirely different sites and apps that deliver a different experience.
The reasons for these restrictions vary. In most cases, it’s to keep as many users in one location connected to their local servers as possible. Connecting to a local server ensures faster connectivity (as long as the servers are working) and a smooth experience for most users.
Unfortunately, not all regions have the same content, even on the same service. There are many times that a series is licensed in one country, but without rights in others. In the early days of streaming, users could sign up for the service, pay, and enjoy the content without restriction. Now, users are blocked from the content and redirected to a local version of the service without the content they want.
It’s often a licensing issue. Companies need permission to release content in specific countries, which can be expensive and possibly unprofitable if they don’t plan their releases properly. Fines and even loss of business operation rights can happen if a release doesn’t follow local laws.
Streaming isn’t the only way that studios make money. A streaming release of a series could expose warehouses of DVDs and Blu-Ray releases to lack of interest. At the same time, a streaming release could motivate fans to buy a copy of their favorite series.
It’s a difficult marketing science to calculate, but the companies have their reasons. Whether good or bad, the fact remains the same: you’re blocked, and you need to do something about that.
Examples Of Geo-Restrictions: Games
Many only games restrict access based on region. This is almost always because of legal or sales-related reasons.
When a game releases, it has to follow specific laws just like any other media. Some of the laws may be related to moral code or public decency, but other restrictions such as loot boxes being investigated, blocked, or restricted as gambling.
Since online games often have microtransactions these days, managing currency and taxes is a big issue. Companies may limit access to discourage users from countries with tax laws that aren’t business friendly, which gives the company some breathing room before foreign governments demand compensation for doing business.
This may eventually happen as games become popular even without legal or legitimate access. That said, if a game is so popular that people are spending enough money to make governments notice is probably worth looking into.
When games are properly segmented into regions, it’s often for network performance and communication. All players on a given region need to have a decent response time or ping to the server, and people who play on servers outside of their region will have noticeable delay.
The company is already making money with separated servers, but regional bans may or may not happen. Popular games such as World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy 11 or 14 (A Realm Reborn), Guild Wars 1 and 2, and the Everquest franchise have existed since before global online gaming was popular or feasible, and they understand that international friendships can be more important than ping.
Still, some countries may find themselves on an IP blacklist or other ban due to performance issues, abuse, or even government sanctions. If you need to access websites, streaming apps, games, or other internet services, contact a VPN tech specialist.