I am normally a law-abiding citizen when it comes to contracted services. For example, many years ago I purchased a house where the previous owner had hijacked their cable service. I voluntarily turned myself in to get legal, and I would do it again if the same situation ever arose. On the other hand, when it comes to providers blocking or denying content based on your location, I feel violated and angry. I may sound like a geezer, but in the spirit of the Internet, blocking content based on your location just seems wrong. I don’t know if I am in the minority or mainstream with my opinion, and frankly I don’t care. I will continue to do everything I can to defy location-based restrictions, and if I get arrested at some point, I may fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.
What follows is my list of location-enforcement transgressions. Let’s start with MLB.tv. Every year I pay my $120 to subscribe to this service, and every year MLB.tv blocks my local team as per an agreement they have with a local TV provider who owns the rights to the broadcast. If you want to watch baseball in my home market, you must buy a $120 a month cable service, and you have no other options. I’d be glad to pay for the content directly, like a pay-per-view event, but this is not an option either.
Five years ago the MLB.tv content blocking was pretty easy to circumvent; all I had to do was use a VPN connected to another city and everything worked fine. Last year the MLB decided to subscribe to a service that notified them with a list of every commercial VPN provider, and their associated IP ranges that they owned. So basically if you used a VPN service you could not watch MLB.tv, even for games that would not normally be blacked out in your market, it is was just indiscriminate VPN blocking.
My next counter punch was to set up my own proxy server and put it behind a friend’s router in a different geographic location. Essentially when I log into MLB.tv they see me coming from Seattle, Washington, and from a random residential private IP address not on their list of commercial VPN providers. This works pretty well, if you have a friend willing to host a proxy for you.
Legalized internet gambling is another nemesis of location-based denial. Internet gambling on sports betting sites is legal in some states and not others. The gambling sites have taken location-based blocking to another level. It’s not just enforced based on your originating IP or VPN usage, but they sniff your computer’s location-based services to prove your location. If you turn off your location-based services, they deny you service.
I am now working on a way to circumvent this intrusion, and I don’t even gamble nor do I have any real intention of using my solution at this time.
I ask myself the question what motivates me to spend time and energy on ways to circumvent these draconian rules when I don’t even want their services. All I can think of is that from a philosophical standpoint, I want Internet content and services to be free from geographical restrictions. I am fine with content providers charging for services, just don’t tell me where I have to be located to use your services.