You’d think there wasn’t much difference in that little number that is assigned to your internet connection but unfortunately that’s not the case. Many of us already know the importance of our IP address and how it effects virtually everything we do online.
The reality is that your IP address does affect your online experience although to what extent largely depends on your physical location. For example Chinese surfers already realise that their internet connections are heavily filtered and censored and many have found methods around the ‘great firewall of China’. For those who live in Western democracies the restrictions are less obvious but they do exist.
A very simple example, ever since the BBC started broadcasting most of their channels online live, I’ve been in the habit of watching the BBC News on my laptop. It means I’m not tied to a TV set and potentially I can watch it from wherever I am. Except this isn’t the case because if you try and watch any of the BBC’s channels online from outside the UK it won’t work. It detects your Non-UK IP address and redirects you to an International version of the site which doesn’t allow access to any of the live programmes or BBC iPlayer.
The solution is relatively straight forward though simply use a VPN or proxy to hide your real location. All you need to do is to redirect through a server based in the UK and you’ll effectively have a British IP address. So that’s it – it was so simple, but unfortunately the game has now changed again.
You see not only does your IP address have a ‘nationality’ assigned to it, there’s a further classification. That is – residential or commercial, every IP address including those assigned to VPN services is grouped into one of those two categories. Now the residential classification is assigned to home addresses which you usually get from your ISP whilst web sites and services usually have commercial classification. Until recently this didn’t matter yet now it’s become very important whether you’re using a residential VPN like this for example.
Because all these global media services don’t like people using VPNs and stuff to bypass all their blocks they’ve decided to take another step. Instead of just restricting based on location, companies like Netflix are now blocking all commercial IP addresses as well. This means not only will you not be allowed access from something like a corporate network, but also if you use a VPN or Smart DNS Service you’ll find them blocked too. Netflix have decided that it’s almost impossible to individually identify specific VPN addresses and blacklist them (which is true) so have just blocked the whole classification of commercial addresses.
There’s no doubt that this new tactic has been extremely effective, hundreds of thousands of Netflix viewers were locked out instantly if they were connected through a VPN. This is because nearly every VPN service ran from a datacentre which contained servers all assigned commercial IP addresses. This means that they are all classed as commercial connections and now don’t work at all with Netflix. It’s too early to see whether other companies will follow suit but consider the success it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Fortunately some of the services have been fighting back and if you know where to look there is an increasing number of residential VPN services available which run on servers assigned residential classified IP addresses.