BBC Blocks More VPN Users From iPlayer

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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International iPlayer users will find it harder to access the service, but will legitimate users be affected too?

The BBC has blocked a number of public VPN services used by viewers outside the UK to access programmes on iPlayer.

The corporation has added such services to a blacklist for some time, but it appears the latest swathe has attracted more attention than usual, with many users of such services telling TorrentFreak they could no longer access iPlayer.

BBC iPlayer is only available in the UK because of local rights agreements and presumably because of practical technical reasons. However with the international version of the service shut down earlier this year, VPN services have become the only way to access BBC’s content online.

VPN block

BBC iPlayerHowever many people in the UK use VPNs for privacy reasons and will be forced to disconnect if they want to use iPlayer. Similarly, many institutions such as universities have VPNs – as does the BBC itself.

There is no way for the Beeb to distinguish between legitimate VPNs and ones which allow users to circumvent geographic restrictions, but the BBC has said it will attempt to work with private VPN users to find a solution.

“We regularly make updates to our technology to help prevent access to BBC iPlayer from outside the UK which breaks our terms of use,” as spokesperson told TechWeekEurope. “BBC iPlayer is freely available to users across the UK without a VPN, and we also seek to ensure users of private VPNs such as those used by schools and companies in the UK have access.”

In April this year, Netflix changed its terms and conditions so it had the power to ban subscribers who used location-hiding technologies such as VPNs and proxies.

Such methods are popular among many users as not all content is available in all countries. For example, every episode of Friends can be viewed using the US version of the site, but not in the UK.

Some also use location hiding techniques in countries where Netflix isn’t available at all. Others use VPNs to avoid throttling from their ISP, especially in the US where Netflix itself has campaigned for net neutrality.

However it is questionable whether Netflix has the desire to exercise this power, given such users amount to a significant source of subscription revenue, whereas the BBC is funded by licence payers in the UK.

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