It should just work.
That’s basically my motto for everything, but especially when it comes to technology.
A VPN is probably the last thing you think about when you want to watch a movie or television.
But I’m going to tell you why you should think about it more often.
How to beat Geo Filtering with a VPN
I spend a lot of time online and there are a couple of tools I rely on every single day to make my life easier and safer. I wouldn’t think of booting up any of my devices without an anti-virus installed. I always protect my important pictures and documents with an online backup service. Without a password manager I’d have 104 pairs of usernames and passwords written on sticky-notes in my office. Literally…I counted them.
A VPN is just as important in this post-Edward Snowden world, even if you don’t care that much about online privacy. If you’re on a network that you don’t trust, for example Wi-Fi hotspots, your Wi-Fi at work, or your sketchy roommate’s router, you should definitely use a VPN.
But that’s not why I use a VPN.
In my initial VPN article, I explained why a VPN is important to me, and it all centers around geo filtering.
What is Geo Filtering?
Geo filtering is how the big cable companies restrict your access to their content based on where you live. Websites can filter what content you can and cannot see based on where your IP address is.
A VPN is the only way I know how you get around those restrictions.
So, with that in mind, why do I like NordVPN to beat geo filtering?
If you read my article on why I won’t use a US based VPN service, you’ll remember that eliminated a lot of companies, right off the bat. To be secure, my chosen VPN had to be in a country that didn’t have or encourage government surveillance, and it had to have a strict “no logs” policy.
I also wanted something that was easy to use. Something that didn’t have a lot of crazy configuration options. Some options are great. Too many and it increases the chances that you’re going to change something you shouldn’t. Remember, a VPN is also to secure your personal data. Even if that’s not a focus for you, you might as well at least take advantage of it.
I wanted something that was recognized as a leader in the field, and not just by bloggers like me, but by major publications as well.
NordVPN gets it right on all three points.
Security for all your devices
NordVPN is based in Panama, which doesn’t have any long-standing agreements to share intelligence and surveillance information with other countries. You won’t be able to elude government watchdogs if they really want to see what you’re doing. But, I believe in not making it any easier on them than I have to.
NordVPN has a strict “no logs” policy. According to one of their representatives: “NordVPN is continuously committed to our zero log policy, which means we do not log any of our users’ activity, nor the IP addresses or timestamps.”
Sounds good to me.
The experts love it
NordVPN has been praised by some of the biggest names in technology media. It won “Best VPN of 2016” from PCAdvisor in the United Kingdom. It’s also won the Editor’s Choice award for VPN’s from PCMag in the US for the past several years. Earlier in 2016, TechRadar called NordVPN “the best VPN for those looking for an ultra-secure service.”
NordVPN is easy to use
One thing that impresses me about a company or product is when they make something simple to use but still powerful enough to configure how you want it.
What I loved about NordVPN is how you select your VPN server.
The default is a slick map-view where all you have to do is scroll on the map to whatever country you choose. If you prefer, there’s also a list view which details each of the more than 700 servers in 54 different countries.
If you prefer the map view, like I do, clicking on the pins will automatically connect to the server in that country with the lowest amount of load. Each time you connect, NordVPN will automatically choose the server that gets you the best overall performance.
That’s fine for general use, but if you know that you’ll be doing something specific, NordVPN has optimized servers for Peer to Peer file transfers (torrents), Ultra-fast TV streaming, or even double VPN for an extra layer of security.
How does it handle Geo Filtering?
As you might already know, I’m a Canadian living in the United States. So a big part of what I watch involves trying to stream Canadian TV content like CBC News or Hockey Night in Canada.
Since getting around geo filtering was the main reason I wanted a VPN, I set up a couple of tests to see how NordVPN worked.
I really recommend running your own tests to everyone who’s interested in getting a VPN before you fully commit to one. Most companies will offer either free trial periods, or monthly subscription services. That way, you’re not risking more than a few dollars to see if its the right service for you.
Test #1: TSN.ca video highlights
It’s frustrating enough to try to find a hockey game on TV in Florida. It’s even worse when you try to get the highlights of the game and find out that it’s blocked in your area:
So, I fired up NordVPN and selected a server from Canada.
There was a little buffering at the beginning, which is to be expected. The way a VPN works, you’re establishing a brand new connection to another Internet server. That still happens when you connect to your usual ISP, but it’s usually happening while your device is still booting up so it’s not as noticeable.
As long as TSN thought I was somewhere inside Canada, it happily played the video for me.
Score: NordVPN: 1, Geo Filering: 0
Test #2: NHL.TV Live Games
Thankfully, I’m not normally blacked out of watching my Montreal Canadiens on TV. NHL.TV is designed so you can watch all of the out of market games, unless they’re on the US national TV broadcast.
Basically, it’s made for people in exactly my situation.
There are a couple of times where a VPN has come in handy though.
The first is what I mentioned earlier. Those rare times when the team you want to watch happens to be on the national channel. If you have some other way to get that channel – great! If not…you could always try using a VPN to someplace that doesn’t have access to that station. In my case, I used NordVPN and switched to a server in the UK. Problem solved.
The second time is a trick I used last year, albeit with a different VPN I was trying out. The way that NHL.TV is structured in the US, you only get access to the games in the regular season. The playoffs have a different TV deal, and aren’t streamed to US viewers. Like before, I was able to switch to a different server and watch every single playoff game.
Score: NordVPN: 2, Geo Filtering: 0
Test #3: CBC News
Streaming live sports is important, but so is getting access to the news. For national news, I grew up with CBC so its really important for me to be able to watch it. It makes me feel like I’m not so far away from home.
Unfortunately, watching CBC online runs into the same issues that happened with TSN. The content isn’t available if the site thinks I’m outside of Canada.
But, I can quickly log into NordVPN and pick a Canadian server to fix that.
Once again, it only took about 30 seconds to get around the geo filtering restrictions.
Score: NordVPN: 3, Geo Filtering: 0
Test #4: BBC
Getting videos from the BBC can be a bit tricky.
When I first tried to bypass the BBC’s geo filtering restrictions, I used NordVPN’s automatic server selection which picked the server with the lowest load on it.
That didn’t work.
What was confusing to me was that the bbc.co.uk website redirected to bbc.com – signaling that it realized that I was on the other side of The Pond, and not sitting in the UK somewhere.
Score: NordVPN: 3, Geo Filtering: 1
A couple of days later I found NordVPN’s help article on how to connect to the BBC servers. It turns out that NordVPN configures individual servers to bypass those restrictions and get you back up and running.
Once I connected to the correctly configured server, I was able to see all the Scottish Football Highlights that I wanted.
Actually, that would be all the Scottish Football Highlights that my dad would want to see. He’s a Glasgow Rangers fan. Me? I’ll stick to ice hockey.
Revised Score: NordVPN: 4, Geo Filtering: 0
Test #5: BBC iPlayer
I have to throw in the BBC iPlayer, just to be fair. While NordVPN can get you around the geo filtering restrictions, you still need a license to access some content.
Score: NordVPN: 4, Geo Filtering: 0, BBC: 1
At the risk of getting off-topic slightly, I want to address this here.
Not everything can be bypassed, and that’s alright. I’m actually OK with the BBC putting their services behind a subscription paywall instead of just blocking it outright based on your location. In the end, their customers are going to vote with their wallets. If there’s enough people supporting them, then they’ll likely continue with the subscription model. If not, then it won’t last long.
In my experience, I’ve seen enough premium services that offer some sort of free online viewing system so that they can reach as many customers as possible. Their subscription service may work for now, but I think its going to seriously limit their growth in the future.
The bottom line is that NordVPN was excellent at bypassing any kind of geo filtering to give me access to as much content as I wanted.
How fast is NordVPN?
Speed will make or break your streaming experience. It doesn’t matter if you can access any content in the world if you don’t have the bandwidth to stream it to your device.
So I set up a simple before and after speed test using Ookla Speed Test on my PC. My connection goes through an ASUS RT-N66U Dark Knight router, which is a bit older of a router now, but it’s still more than enough for my current needs.
To give you an idea of how I ran the test, here’s some important notes:
- My Internet is the 60Mps through Brighthouse.
- My PC has a wired Ethernet connection to maximize the speed.
- I let NordVPN choose what server to connect to, based on the server with the least traffic at that moment.
- All other devices on my network were powered down for this test. That includes phones, tablets and other streaming devices.
- The images below are the speeds at my PC level. They are NOT the overall speed for my entire house.
I honestly didn’t expect my Internet speed to be this fast. Even at 60 Mbps, I’ve got the same problems as most people – buffering some videos takes too long and, let’s face it, I’m not a patient person. 🙂
Still, I was getting between 48Mbps and 51Mbps at my PC, which is great. It’s also overkill for most streaming applications, but I’m not going to complain.
Again, I chose a Canadian server for my tests. Your mileage may vary depending on what country’s servers you’re trying to connect to.
SpeedTest came back at around 15 Mbps at my PC. That is slower than I was hoping for, but still more than fast enough for HD quality video. Netflix recommends a minimum of 5 Mbps for HD quality streams, so this is great.
Remember, this test is done at my PC level. Each device that you connect to will have a different connection, independent from the others. The only cap is your overall network speed coming in to your router. In my case, my cap is that theoretical 60 Mbps. If I ran NordVPN on my PC and another device at the same time, it is likely I’d get similar results (to a point).
NordVPN is a free download with a pay-as-you-go subscription service. You can choose to go on a monthly subscription service for $11.95 per month, a six-month plan for $7.00 per month, or pre-pay for a full year which works out to be $5.75 per month.
NordVPN also offers a free 3-day trial as well as a 30-day money back guarantee. To sign up for the trial, you can email them at email@example.com for more information. However, if you purchase NordVPN directly through either the Apple app store or the Google Play Store, you cannot be refunded. That money actually goes directly to Google or Apple, who takes a cut of the revenue before it ever gets to the company you’re purchasing from.
You can use NordVPN on up to six devices at the same time, so on the yearly plan, that works out to less than $1 per device per month. Personally, I think that’s a great deal for the flexibility and security that a VPN offers.
As a bonus, depending on what type of router you have, you may be able to run NordVPN directly on your router to protect all of your devices at the same time. That won’t give you the flexibility to independently select where you want to log in on each device. But, it is a “set it and forget it” kind of installation. If you know you’re always going to log in to one particular country’s servers, that makes it very easy to do automatically.
NordVPN lets you watch content from around the world
I highly recommend NordVPN if you’re looking to access as much content around the world as possible. It’s extremely easy to use and offers a lot of extra security features that I’ll detail in later articles. If streaming content from around the world is important to you, and especially if you stream content from Kodi add-ons like Exodus or Sports Devil, you owe it to yourself to check out NordVPN.