Six years ago, Netflix started blocking customers who tried to access its service over a commercial VPN or proxy service.
These changes came after copyright holders repeatedly complained that ‘pirates’ were bypassing Netflix’s geographical restrictions.
The VPN ban caused a lot of frustration for legitimate VPN users, many of whom had no intention of breaking any rules. At the same time, the VPN ‘pirates’ found workarounds by picking services that actively bypass Netflix’s restrictions.
There are various ways VPN services have managed to circumvent these blocking efforts. Most keep the technical details private, but it’s commonly known that some are using residential IP-addresses as proxies, to make it look like VPN users are regular ISP subscribers.
This cat and mouse game has caused quite a bit of frustration at Netflix headquarters and, over the past few days, the company appears to have intensified its blocking measures.
There is a flurry of complaints on social media from users whose VPN services were suddenly ‘blocked’ by Netflix. Previously, these people couldn’t play any content while using a VPN. That changed last year. Now, VPN users can still see Netflix originals while other content is hidden and blocked.
People who try to access blocked titles directly through a saved URL will see Netflix’s dreaded proxy/VPN error message instead.
Netflix Bans Residential IP-Addresses
Netflix doesn’t explain which IP addresses are blocked and why, but the most recent efforts are much broader than before. This issue was brought to our attention by WeVPN, which noticed that the updated geo-fencing system is blocking its residential IP addresses.
These IP addresses are assigned to common consumer ISPs such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon. While it makes sense for Netflix to put an end to these workarounds, there appears to be some collateral damage.
“The collateral damage is that you have hundreds of thousands of legitimate residential Netflix subscribers blocked from accessing Netflix’s local country full catalog from their home,” a WeVPN spokesperson informs us.
While we are unable to verify how many people are facing issues, it is clear that the measures are spilling over to regular subscribers.
Complaints Start Pouring In
TorrentFreak reached out to Netflix for a comment but the company didn’t immediately reply. However, a quick glance on social media shows a disturbing number of Netflix subscribers who are “missing” content, which is exactly what would happen when an IP-address is flagged.
“Hi! I noticed that my account is displaying nothing but Netflix originals and a handful of non-Netflix original content on my TV, but on my phone, it displays everything as usual/normal,” Reddit user literarydone observed.
“Idk whats happened but Netflix suddenly stopped showing tv shows that I was watching when my laptop is connected to the internet over wifi. it shows the same tv shows when my laptop is connected to the internet over mobile data hotspot,” another person wrote, with a commenter reporting the same problem.
The common theme is that Netflix only shows Netflix originals on their IP address, which is expected when it’s flagged as a VPN or proxy. One Redditor managed to get a new IP-address from his ISP, which immediately resolved the problem.
“Contact Your ISP…”
While Netflix hasn’t released an official comment on the situation, the company is aware of the problems.
One user who complained on Twitter, got the advice to contact their ISP to see if their IP address is associated with proxy or VPN use. This is a peculiar suggestion, as the blocking is taking place on Netflix’s end.
We don’t know how widespread the problem is but based on the number of complaints we have seen so far it’s certainly not an isolated issue. That begs the question if the VPN banning measures are worth the collateral damage.
Netflix has all the rights to take action against people who bypass their restrictions, but when this harms paying customers who don’t use a VPN, it might not be the best solution.
Meanwhile, VPNs are taking countermeasures to make sure that their customers can access Netflix without restrictions.
WeVPN told us that the company is experimenting with a solution, which appears to function for now. CyberGhost and Private Internet Access, which were also affected by Netflix’s new blockades, say they managed to route around it within a day.
Update: A Netflix spokesperson informed us that the company is not banning all content for VPN and proxy services. Netflix originals are still available, as we mentioned. The streaming service is working with people who were inadvertently affected to restore access to the full library.