Some people, who are definitely not us, may be struggling to watch sporting events in these COVID times. From Wife carrying
, to cheese rolling
, to chess boxing
, there are all sorts of sports that terrestrial broadcasters will snap up the exclusive broadcast rights for and put behind a paywall. Unfortunately, this means that the energy-drink-backed online streaming service that you might normally watch the sport on has to geoblock its content so it doesn't break any licensing agreements, leaving viewers in certain countries potentially unable to watch the event live and probably with an inferior standard of commentary and analysis.
Thankfully, there's a legal way around this licensing chicanery - a VPN. VPNs are legal in countries such as, off the top of my head, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa or Italy, and they can be used for free, although paid options are also available and generally recommended for long term use.
We are absolutely not suggesting that people use this to watch World Champs in a market where it has been blocked
But it would be totally possible...What is a VPN?
Before we get into VPNs, we need to understand what an Internet Protocol (IP) address is. Your IP address is a unique number that is linked to all your internet activity and, much like the Post Office needs a mailing address to deliver a package, a router needs an IP address to deliver to the web address requested. Because it's connected to where you access the internet, your IP address can also be used to determine your location and it's this that a streaming service will use when geoblocking a broadcast.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a privacy tool that masks your IP address. Most of the time it is recommended to use VPNs to protect yourself when using insecure public networks such as in a cafe but they can also be a workaround to access geoblocked content. After you install a VPN, you are able to pick which country you would like to appear to be accessing the internet from and then continue browsing as normal.Which VPN should I use?
There are both free and paid-for VPNs and which you choose is up to you. Nothing comes totally for free though and you should be aware that not paying for a VPN will have some drawbacks that may include being shown adverts or having your data and security compromised. Other VPNs may only offer a limited service that throttles the amount of data you can use and the speed you can use it at, rendering them useless for streaming live sports unless you pay for an upgrade. We'd be wary of any free VPN that claims to provide unlimited services for free as they tend to be the most risky. A list of free to use VPNs is available from TechRadar here
Another free way to change your location is by using the Opera browser. After downloading the browser, enabling its inbuilt VPN is easy. Go to “Settings” (or “Preferences” on Mac), choose “Privacy & Security” and then toggle the free VPN. An icon labeled “VPN” will appear in the browser, from which you can toggle VPN on and off, and choose a location.
There are also paid for VPNs that should offer a better service and, if you've listened to any podcast in the last six months, you probably already know some of them already. Paid-for VPNs can cost as little as $2/month and will give you a greater peace of mind about privacy than a free VPN. A list of paid-for VPNs is available again from TechRadar, here
. Most paid for VPNs also offer a free trial which would be a great way to watch a sporting event this weekend.What would we do?
A VPN is a sensible thing to have on your computer or phone all the time but if you're only going to be using it for accessing one large sporting event in the next few days, then the best thing to do is probably just get a free trial of a paid-for VPN and then cancel it before you get billed. NordVPN
, Express VPN
all offer free trials and we're sure others do too.
So there you have it, a Pinkbike article on how to keep your data safe while browsing online, just because we absolutely care about your internet security and definitely not because it would be an easy way watch the World Champs this weekend.