The best VPNs for unlocking US Netflix

Although the war between Netflix and VPNs wages on, there are still a number of services that will let you bypass geo-blocks to access the US catalogue.

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Accessing Netflix from different geographic locations is one of the biggest points of contention for Canadians. Since its launch in 2015, Canadians have flocked to the streaming giant – but the Canadian catalogue pales in comparison to its US counterpart. VPNs can circumvent some of Netflix’s geo-blocking measures, but the SVOD provider is constantly on the lookout for how to protect its region-specific licensing agreements, and in 2016, frustrated users began reporting the famed “Netflix proxy error” when attempting to get their fix. As a result, VPN services are always upgrading and experimenting with new measures in what has become an eternal game of cat and mouse.

Using a VPN vs using a proxy

VPNs and proxies accomplish the same thing via different methods.

A proxy server is an intermediary that sits between your computer and the Internet. Anywhere you go on the Internet, it will appear you are using the IP address and are in the country where the proxy server is located. However, many proxies are set up where the proxy owner can view your activity and your IP address.

VPNs create a “tunnel” from your computer to the Internet through which all data is passed. VPNs always have a least some encryption in place for data, although there is still the possibility of the VPN keeping logs of your history on the Internet or containing adware which generates advertising based on the content you view online.

On the whole, you’re better off using a VPN than a proxy server when it comes to getting around geo-blocking and accessing Netflix. Proxy servers are less reliable and the possibility of being viewed by a third party is greater.

Can using a VPN to access Netflix get me into trouble?

Although it’s a bit of a grey area, using a VPN in Canada is still considered legal as is accessing geo-blocked content.

The bigger concern with using a VPN to access US (or any other) Netflix is that it’s considered a violation of their terms of service, so you could find yourself being banned from using it altogether. At the moment, Netflix seems more preoccupied with going after the VPNs themselves than with the actual users, but it’s something to be mindful of nonetheless.

In theory, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to lawfully access Netflix Canada with an Canadian-based VPN running, but there are countless reports of users receiving the dreaded proxy error nonetheless. It seems that Netflix has gone for an all-out ban on VPN-assisted access, even if it’s not to cheekily bypass geo-blocks.

Keep in mind that the very nature of a VPN masks your IP and prevents your online activity, so it’s not for us to say if and how the copyright holders would be able to identify you should you choose to access their content without the proper licensing. Here at finder.com/ca, we do not encourage Internet browsing activity outside the law, we only aim to compare the services available to Canadians.

Which devices can I watch Netflix with a VPN on?

You can stream Netflix via several different devices, all of which can support VPN use. They include the following:

  • Smart TVs
  • Streaming media players
  • Game consoles including Nintendo 3DS, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii, Wii U, XBOX360 and XBOXONE.
  • Set-top boxes
  • Blu-ray players
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • PCs
  • Laptops

How fast does a VPN need to be to access Netflix?

Download speeds are measured in megabits per second (Mbps), which encapsulate the bandwidth and throughput of a network. Netflix offers the following information on required and recommended speeds.

      • 0.5 Mbps: Required broadband connection speed
      • 1.5 Mbps: Recommended broadband connection speed
      • 3.0 Mbps: Recommended for SD quality
      • 5.0 Mbps: Recommended for HD quality
      • 25 Mbps: Recommended for Ultra HD quality

Having trouble accessing Netflix with your VPN?

Have you ever found the office copy machine giving an error code, only to turn it on and off and find it working fine five minutes later? That’s a fairly good representation of how VPNs operate when it comes to accessing Netflix. It’s a bit of a cat-and-mouse game as Netflix seeks to block unlicensed users and VPN companies attempt to circumvent these attempts. If your VPN stops allowing access to Netflix, your best bet is to contact the VPN’s customer service department. You definitely won’t be the first person to ask for help in this department, so there’s a good chance they will be able to offer a solution.

Can I use a VPN to unblock other streaming services?

Depending on your browser and your device, you can use a VPN to access a large catalogue of streaming services beyond Netflix, like Hulu, Amazon and just about any country-specific TV channel that you can think of.

Image: Shutterstock

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