VPN Articles and News

BBC iPlayer Starts Blocking VPNs

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

BBC iPlayer is an extremely popular On-Demand streaming, radio and catch-up service offered by BBC. The service is by far the most popular streaming service within United Kingdom since more than 45% of British internet users access it on a regular basis. While the service is officially available only to those who are based in UK, millions of people from all over the world access it through IP masking tools such as proxies and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). However, if the recent reports are to be believed, BBC has now begun to block VPN and proxy users from accessing the iPlayer service.

BBC’s move doesn’t really come as a surprise since the iPlayer service is not exactly free but is funded by licensing fees which is paid by the British viewers. A recent survey carried out by GlobalWebIndex shows that BBC iPlayer is being accessed by 60 million people from outside UK, including 38.5 million viewers from China alone. The survey interviewed more than 47,000 people from United States, China, Japan, France, Germany and India and found that 1-8% of the surveyed people in each country were accessing iPlayer via VPNs or proxies. The sheer number of people accessing the service from outside UK borders may have finally galvanized BBC into action to take such a drastic step.

BBC’s decision to ban VPNs comes soon after the company decided to pull plug on the international version of iPlayer. The international version was available in selected territories like Europe, Canada and Australia and made programs like Doctor Who, Top Gear and Sherlock available to the outside world. The closure of the international version may be an indication that BBC is trying to generate more revenue by tying up with streaming providers like Netflix and Hulu rather than directly offering its content to the international viewers.

BBC has defended its move to block VPNs as a step towards curbing piracy. While the decision is meant to prevent overseas viewers from watching BBC shows without paying a license fees, the move could also affect people who are based in UK but use either satellite broadband or a VPN service for security reasons. The company has admitted that it doesn’t have the technical capability to distinguish genuine users based in UK who might be using VPNs from freeloaders who are accessing the service from an overseas location through an IP masking service. It is also not currently clear whether UK expats or frequent fliers located outside UK but who pay for the service would be affected by the move.

BBC’s decision has certainly caught VPN providers by surprise but many companies like IPVanish and TorGuard have already taken steps to render the ban ineffective. VPN providers can bypass the roadblocks set up by BBC simply by adding a new server with an entirely new pool of IPs. However, such measures may not last long if BBC is quick enough to identify the new set of IPs and block them as well. While other On-Demand providers have not yet started following BBC’s lead, they may do so if the company is able to implement the ban effectively.

    February 24, 2016

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