Access Netflix, Hulu, Pandora from outside US

A colleague working abroad wanted to get streaming Internet content (videos from Netflix and Hulu, music from Pandora). But those services only have content distribution deals for US customers so they block non-US subscribers. How can those services be tricked? By connecting through a US server. Here’s how.


A Virtual Private Network or VPN is used by many companies to secure traffic and make your computer appear as if it is on the local corporate network. Internet traffic is typically tunneled through the corporate servers making it appear as if the web browsing is originating on those corporate servers.

Finding a VPN Provider

You can set up a VPN yourself with OpenVPN, but it’s fairly complicated.

I suggest using a paid VPN service. Because all your traffic goes through these servers and your bandwidth is limited by the speed of the VPN servers, you need to chose a VPN service that you can trust. Most VPN providers that I found look a little shady. There are lots of fake review sites as well that are clearly promoting particular sites.


StrongVPN is a provider that describes their corporate history, locations, and services in detail. Their corporate headquarters is in California and by all appearances, they aren’t a shady company. As of this writing, they have 94 servers in the US in 8 locations.

They have setup instruction for Windows, Mac and Linux.

They have a page explaining how to make sure that Hulu, etc. will work for you:
Unblocking Geographically Blocked Sites

My colleague used StrongVPN without any problems. There is typically additional lag by going through the extra hop of a VPN, but the bandwidth from StrongVPN was good and it worked well enough to watch streaming shows while outside the US.


Unrelated to VPNs, another solution for video when traveling abroad (or anywhere) is Slingbox, which allows you to access your home cable box or DVR. See my old post: Watch Your Home Team with Slingbox.

Problems for Pandora and other US Web Radio Stations

Pandora is a web site that provides streaming music to your computer, your iPhone, and other devices. It creates customized stations based on music you like and if you give a song a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”. You can click on a song you like to go to Amazon or iTunes in order to purchase it. It’s great for finding new music and it used to be a good business.

But the record companies are afraid of streaming radio stations. They brought the issue to the Copyright Royalty Board, which decided last year to raise the cost to play a song over the Internet from 8/100 of a cent per song per listener in 2006 to 19/100 of a cent per song per listener in 2010. Pandora only makes revenue on ads on its website, so this will be quite a bite into profits.

The Washington Post recently talked with Pandora.

“We’re approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision,” said Tim Westergren, who founded Pandora. “This is like a last stand for webcasting.”…

“We’re losing money as it is… The moment we think this problem in Washington is not going to get solved, we have to pull the plug because all we’re doing is wasting money.”

The problem is in Washington with the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision. First, if the music industry understood what was in their best interests, they would encourage the promotion of their music. Second, these rules only apply to the US. So I can still listen to streaming radio coming from Canada or anywhere else. Only US-based sites are punished. Third, no fees are charged to traditional over-the-air radio stations to play music.

Rep. Howard L. Berman of California is trying to negotiate a deal between web radio companies and SoundExchange, which represents the record companies. Hopefully he can encourage a more reasonable approach to music over the Internet.