April 28, 2014
Hulu Blocks VPN Access To Its Streaming Service
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Video streaming service Hulu has been a popular way for international viewers to catch up on American TV programs, but late last week the over-the-top (OTT) provider started blocking VPN (virtual private networks) as a way to pull the plug on foreign eyeballs.
The story was first reported by Torrentfreak on Monday, which noted that this is a move to prevent overseas “pirates” from accessing video content without permission. However it is also blocking many apparent legitimate users from accessing the Internet more securely.
Torrentfreak reported that these free and more importantly legal streaming services like Hulu have done a good job at reducing piracy rates in the United States, but at the same time have created a new problem. International users are able to create cheap VPN sites that allow them to connect to American sites via a US-based IP-address and bypass geographical restrictions.
Hulu’s apparent solution last week was to block all visitors who accessed the service through an IP-address that is linked to a VPN. This meant that in addition enforcing the geographical restrictions it also blocked hundreds of thousands of actual US citizens.
Those users who attempted to access the service via a VPN were greeted with a message that read: “Based on your IP-address, we noticed that you are trying to access Hulu through an anonymous proxy tool. Hulu is not currently available outside the U.S. If you’re in the U.S. you’ll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.”
Several VPN sites have already found that their users haven’t been able to access the OTT streaming service. Torrentfreak reported that VikingVPN was among the first providers to note that its users couldn’t access Hulu, while TorGuard and Private Internet Access both reported issues. The latter is now reportedly engaged in discussion with Hulu to resolve the problem.
“Private Internet Access exists to protect the privacy of netizens everywhere. Many of our customers leave their Private Internet Access accounts enabled 24/7/365. It is unfortunate that Hulu is blocking VPN service IPs,” Andrew Lee, CEO of Private Internet Access told Torrentfreak. “We have an existing relationship with Hulu and are reaching out to them directly to see what we can do about fixing this issue.”
According to CNET Australia the blocking of VPNs is also only having so much of an effect on what it was intended to do – namely enforce the geoblocks.
According to CNET's Claire Reilly, “CNET Australia was able to access Hulu using a Chrome browser extension… Geoblocking has long been an issue affecting Australian internet users keen on watching TV shows and other content fresh out of the United States. By subscribing to a VPN or DNS service, Australians could access streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix while sidestepping the geoblocks.”
The irony may be that while Australians can get around the problem some in America are actually facing problems.
What is also notable about this ban of VPNs is that Hulu can’t actually determine a user’s exact location. PC Mag reported that “Hulu’s IP-based ban only works for IP addresses it has in its database; the service isn't actually checking to see if one is connected to a VPN when accessing content. Though it’ll likely cost a bit more, users can probably pony up for a dedicated IP address from their VPN service — one that isn't shared by any other user — that's likely remain free from Hulu's blacklist.”
“In the event of wide-spread IP blocking a quick fix for the problem is to use a dedicated VPN IP,” said TorGuard’s CEO Ben Van Pelt to Torrentfreak. “This ensures that no other user on the network has registered an account under that same IP address.”
This does confirm that there are ways for legitimate US users who want to maintain privacy and anonymity to still be able to catch up on their shows.