the pros and cons of using a VPN with Netflix

Currently, Netflix reigns supreme as the global streaming leader. But while the platform offers vast content libraries, regional restrictions can limit viewers’ experiences. Enter VPNs – Virtual Private Networks. These tools promise to unlock Netflix’s full potential but come with their own considerations.

In our article “What are the pros and cons of using a VPN with Netflix?”, we explain the benefits and drawbacks of using a VPN with Netflix, helping you make an informed decision for your binge-watching sessions.

What are the pros and cons of using a VPN with Netflix?

Pros:

Access to Geo-Restricted Content on Netflix

Netflix’s content varies across regions due to geo-restrictions which arise from licensing agreements. For instance, a British television series might be unavailable on Netflix UK because a local broadcaster owns the rights to the content, but the same series could be on Netflix in Australia or Canada due to different licensing terms.

Many Netflix subscribers discover that certain movies or series are not accessible in their region, even though they’re available elsewhere. And the regional differences in Netflix’s library can be substantial, especially between countries with varied content licensing norms.

VPNs offer a solution by allowing users to change their IP Address and internet connection’s perceived location, enabling them to access Netflix’s library from different regions. However, users should be aware of Netflix’s stance on VPN usage and the debate surrounding are VPNs safe and is it safe to use a VPN with Netflix, before employing this method.

Increased Privacy & Security

Using a VPN with Netflix increases your online privacy and security. With encrypted protocol data, VPNs ensure that your viewing habits, search history, and personal details are kept under wraps, effectively warding off potential hackers or any third-party entities eager to snoop on your activities.

Furthermore, some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have a known history of monitoring users’ digital footprints. A VPN acts as a shield, making your connection to Netflix untraceable. This keeps your viewing preferences away from prying eyes and prevents any potential data logging that ISPs might employ.

One of the more overlooked benefits of using a VPN with Netflix is how they come into play when we stream content on public Wi-Fi networks. These networks can be riddled with vulnerabilities. A VPN provides security in these scenarios, safeguarding your connection against potential cyber threats lurking on the same network.

Also, your online habits, including the shows and movies you binge on Netflix, can be data points for advertisers. By masking your activities, VPNs ensure you’re less likely to be bombarded by adverts tailored based on your viewing preferences. 

Choosing the best VPN for Netflix is always crucial. You’ll need to ask yourself whether VPNs are safe and then go one step further by asking yourself are free VPNs safe.

Avoiding ISP Throttling

In many regions, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) slow down user connections to data-heavy services, including streaming platforms like Netflix. This throttling can slow VPN streaming speeds, leading to buffering, reduced video resolution, or service interruptions.

There are several reasons ISPs might throttle connections. Some aim to manage network congestion, especially during high-demand periods, by restricting speeds for data-intensive tasks. Others might reduce the streaming quality of Netflix if they have ties to competing streaming services, pushing users towards these alternatives.

Using a VPN can counter this challenge. With a VPN, internet traffic is directed through encrypted tunnels, making it difficult for ISPs to discern the type of data being accessed. As a result, they can’t identify and throttle streaming content from Netflix, leading to a more consistent VPN speed and a better viewing experience.

However, not all VPNs offer the necessary speeds for high-definition or 4K streaming. If the primary purpose of using a VPN is for Netflix, choosing a service that offers fast, reliable connections is important. Furthermore, since Netflix often blocks many VPN services, selecting one that can bypass these barriers is essential. It’s also wise to test VPNs to ensure optimal performance.

Cons:

Potential breach of Netflix’s terms of service

Within its terms of service, Netflix explicitly states that users are only permitted to access the service in the country where they have established an account and only from territories where they offer the service. This means circumventing geo-restrictions with a VPN might be considered a violation of their terms, raising questions about whether watching Netflix with a VPN is legal?

Now, while Netflix recognises the legitimate security concerns that lead users to employ VPNs, it must balance this understanding with contractual agreements it has with content producers and distributors. These agreements often stipulate geographic limitations on where certain content can be shown due to varying licensing arrangements in different countries.

In practice, rather than penalising individual users, Netflix has often focused on identifying and blocking VPN servers. This action is in line with their commitment to content rights holders. However, there’s an ever-present risk, albeit small, that Netflix could take further measures against accounts frequently identified as using VPNs to bypass regional restrictions. Users must also consider the difference between a dedicated server and a virtual server when selecting a VPN.

Connection Speed Issues

When using a VPN with Netflix, one of the most frequent challenges users encounter is the potential for reduced connection speeds. Streaming content, especially high-definition videos or series, requires a robust and steady internet connection. VPNs, by their nature, redirect your internet traffic through servers located in different parts of the world. This rerouting, while essential for bypassing geographical content restrictions, can introduce latency or delay in the data transmission process.

The speed reduction largely depends on the location of the VPN server. For instance, if a user in London connects to a router or VPN server in Sydney to access Australian Netflix content, the data has to travel a considerable distance before reaching the user. This longer route can lead to noticeable buffering or lower video quality. Moreover, the encryption and decryption process, integral to a VPN’s security mechanism, requires processing time, which can further slow down the connection.

Additionally, some VPN servers can become congested during peak hours. Popular servers, especially those known to effectively bypass Netflix’s geo-blocks, might have many users connected at once, reducing the bandwidth available for each individual.

Occasional Connectivity Problems

When using a VPN with Netflix, users might occasionally encounter connectivity problems. This stems from Netflix’s proactive measures to detect and block VPN traffic. The streaming giant invests significantly in identifying and preventing VPN users from accessing content outside their designated geographical region. As a result, even some of the most reputable VPN providers can sometimes struggle to bypass these blocks.

When Netflix identifies an IP address associated with a VPN, it restricts that IP from accessing its content, leading to the infamous “Proxy Error” message. While VPN services routinely respond by refreshing their IP addresses or tweaking their technologies, it becomes a constant tug-of-war between them and Netflix. This dynamic can cause intermittent connectivity issues for users, making their streaming experience less smooth than desired.

Moreover, the popularity of a specific VPN server can be its downfall. If too many users connect to Netflix using the same VPN server, the sudden spike in traffic can be a red flag for Netflix, leading to quicker detection and blocking.

Patch Bowen
Patch Bowen is an accomplished technology journalist with a solid academic foundation, holding a degree from Auckland University. His expertise spans across a range of tech topics, with a notable focus on product reviews, industry trends, and the impact of technology on society. With his work featured on major New Zealand websites like Stuff.co.nz, thebit.nz, and The Press, Patch has established himself as a credible voice in technology media. His articles are known for their detailed analysis and practical insights, particularly in making complex technological concepts understandable for a broad audience. At ReviewsFire, Patch is renowned for his thorough evaluations and clear, informative writing style. He has a knack for identifying and explaining the nuances of the latest gadgets and digital trends, earning him a reputation as a trusted source for tech advice and information.

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