Each time Last100 covers the BBC’s iPlayer I get fired up. Why wait a year for BBC America or DVD for compelling content out of the UK? Of course, the easiest way to catch international television online is by finding (or providing) a friend with a Slingbox.
Warning: Über-geeky networking content follows.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume we don’t have any overseas pals. Most streaming websites (Hulu, BBC, etc) selectively permit access to a range of IP addresses based on geographic location. i.e. US addresses can view Hulu, European addresses cannot. Back in my old information assurance days, we occasionally applied geo blocking – but like these video destinations, it’s not a true security measure, it’s meant to be a deterrent.
Two ways to bypass this barrier involve bouncing web traffic through a proxy or tunneling directly through a VPN. Again, it helps to have friends in your target country. However, there are often open, freely available proxy servers floating around out there on the interwebs. Finding them requires some Googling and you can expect proxies to vanish as quickly as new ones turn up – though strained server performance is often subpar. Regarding VPNs, it appears a niche business has popped up facilitating these sorts of activities. Prices and bandwidth vary and, in my brief research, all appeared sketchy. So I overpaid (£10.00 GBP) for a service that uses PayPal, in lieu of giving up my credit card and billing information. Interestingly, the VPN details are buried in a connection executable – meaning, without more work, my iPlayer experimentation has been limited to Windows. If I were more motivated, I could probably sniff the details I need or use a hex editor to retrieve them – allowing me to utilize this connection information within OS X and/or on the iPhone, which had been my original target.
As it turns out, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to Steve‘s articles. Unlike the US-based Hulu, BBC iPlayer is a “catch up” service – only offering the last 7 days of broadcast content, versus many episodes covering many years. And, thus, my motivation has waned and I’m allowing my UK VPN subscription to lapse.