How to view BBC iPlayer whilst abroad. Last update: March 2011.
Since last November I’ve been testing a free VPN called ‘Expat Shield’ with some scepticism. It has worked perfectly from the outset for unlimited iPlayer viewing, though occasionally it is necessary to pause the video for buffering (just for a minute or two). Otherwise the speed is superb, it’s free, legal and easy to use.
- Download the Expat Shield software. It may insist you run a ‘download manager’ beforehand.
- Run the installer, select ‘English’ and click through the next pages until you are offered some additional, bundled software. Untick and reject the ‘community toolbar’, and click next to install.
- When installed and running, you will see a shield in the bottom-right hand corner of the screen. When the UK connection is live, it will be green – when it’s red, you just have your regular, direct connection. Right-click on the shield and ensure ‘show on restart’ is unticked – we needn’t have the programme permanently running and slowing down your computer.
- There is rightly some suspicion of ‘free’ VPNs/Proxies, so for this reason it’s best the software is used only for accessing TV streams – after use, ensure it’s disabled again (right-click the shield, go to ‘disconnect/off’ and then ‘disconnect’ again in the browser). Avoid using it for email/social networking and certainly avoid doing shopping transactions. In theory, there is a risk of keyloggers although the developers do seem reputable. Perhaps a better reason to avoid general web-browsing is that the connection will be slightly slower and the software plants adverts at the top of webpages.
- When disabled (red mode), the software may alert you: “Privacy Protection Disabled – Click here to access all web content securely and privately.” Ignore the scare-mongering, as your connection is no less secure than normal – it simply means you’re not using the Expat Shield software. When the connection is disabled, simply exit the programme altogether by disconnecting and then right-clicking ‘exit’ on the shield.
There is nothing illegal about doing this, though I for one would happily pay the full licence fee for overseas access, if copyright holders would wise-up. Although it is illegal for UK residents without a TV licence to access the live channel streams, anyone may access the recorded episode catch-ups.
A stripped-down international version of the video iPlayer will likely be launched soon. Channel 4 and ITV‘s on-demand services should also work using the above method. It may also work for accessing censored content in territories such as China.
How proxies/VPNs work…