If you live in the UK and are unfortunate to have an interest in the news or politics then you’ll probably be getting fed up of pictures of various roads across Ireland. These particular roads are all frequently displayed to illustrate the Irish border, or what is currently the lack of it. Here’s one of the pictures:
Which I guess kind of illustrates the point that it’s fairly easy to cross over the border at the moment! Certainly there’s pretty much zero restrictions for people, goods and services to cross either way across the border. However although Brexit apart it’s great to see the reduction in physical borders, they definitely exist in the online world. We all probably think we’re pretty much the same sitting in front of our laptops and computers, yet virtually every website of any size will monitor where we’re physically based.
It’s kind of disturbing to think that so much effort goes in to tracking and monitoring us when we connect to a website. However it’s very important to most websites, even the very smallest blog will probably have some sort of analytics installed which will monitor locations and other basic information about your visit. Indeed with a few more resources your location can be even more detailed than simply a town or city, with some co-operation from the ISPs (often given) they can get your full postal address too.
The reality is that there are loads of ‘digital borders’ and they’re increasing all the time. You’ve probably stumbled across them, those sorry this ‘content is not available in your location’ type messages. However for every one of those you see, there will be numerous times where you’re quietly sidetracked or routed to a specific page based on your location.
Take for example the BBC, if you visit any of their web pages you’ll have a completely different experience if you’re logging on from a UK computer to one anywhere else in the world – including the Republic of Ireland. As soon as you press return on your browser, the web site will have determined your location which will determine what happens next. It’s all done based on your IP address, that simple network ID which every device connected to the internet must have.
So what happens – well here’s what you’ll see if you’re in the UK, on Tuesday 18th September:
However if I was to drive a few miles and connect from a computer south of the Irish border I would actually see a completely different site. Here’s what a visitor from anywhere outside the UK would see:
It’s a totally different website, even though these screenshots were taken minutes apart. The second picture is from the ‘International’ version of the BBC, it’s even got an advertisement on the site which as we know you would never see on the domestic version.
In fact the International BBC site although a decent news site is actually a pale imitation of the UK version. For a start you can’t watch all the live TV channels and what’s worse you can’t get access to the wonderful BBC iPlayer which archives most of the BBC’s content for a few weeks. A few short miles across a border is enough to block access to one of the best media sites on the entire internet.
How to Watch UK TV Online in Ireland
Of course, if you are on the borders it’s likely you’ll at least be able to pick up the TV signal. Indeed the art of IP location is not 100% perfect and many people will also probably sneak through if their IP address is inadvertently assigned a UK nationality.
However for the rest of us it’s extremely frustrating! It’s difficult to underestimate how good the BBC media site is – it’s easily comparable to many expensive cable packages I’ve subscribed to over the years. There are hundreds of dramas, documentaries, news and sports programmes like Match of the Day all available at the click of a button. What’s more it’s constantly updated and you’ll often find box sets appearing on there which will keep you enthralled for weeks! Plus you can listen to hour upon hour of Brexit arguing on programs like Question Time and Newsnight, um perhaps not!
So can you get BBC iPlayer in Ireland or indeed anywhere outside the UK ? Fortunately there is a solution, not only for those just missing out on a UK border, but for those connecting from anywhere on the planet. It’s a method that I’ve personally been using for more than a decade and literally millions of people across the world use to watch the BBC iPlayer.
It’s not that complicated and over the years there have been several variations in the methods. There’s one constant though and that’s you must hide your real IP address and use a UK based one in order to fool the BBC into letting you watch the proper BBC site.
Over the last two years, the BBC has become a little stroppy about people doing this. In previous years they never really bothered about these circumvention tools but as their international monetizing schemes were extended they started to block people. This meant that simple and free options like using some accidentally misconfigured proxy server from a UK company or college no longer worked. Also those many companies who actively portrayed themselves as UK TV watching companies and live UK streams, received rather intimidating legal approaches and promptly closed down.
The market now is much smaller and has been reduced to two main methods provided from the few legitimate companies who played things smarter than the rest. They kept their services more legitimate and didn’t directly advertise the circumvention properties (despite nearly everyone using them!). Also they invested in large blocks of British IP addresses meaning it was extremely difficult to manually block and filter the connections.
The two methods are actually linked and fairly similar, they are called Smart DNS and VPN (Virtual Private Networks). For purely TV watching purposes and ease of installation, the method we’ll demonstrate here is Smart DNS which you can see in the following video:
It’s important to remember that the Smart DNS method illustrated above does not offer any real privacy or security options. It’s purely for bypassing the blocks and allowing you to watch geo-restricted sites like the BBC, indeed your internet connection is really not affected much at all. For options other than a computer for example if you want to watch UK TV abroad on ipad or something it’s definitely simpler.
Although a VPN is more secure it does often slow your internet connection down, as it relays everything you do through a third party server. It also can be a little more difficult to set up as it usually relies on the installation of client software to manage and control the network connection.
The installation of Smart DNS simply involves changing your DNS servers and activating your account. After this has been completed your IP address will be masked only when visiting one of these restricted web sites like the BBC. At this point you’ll be partially routed through the correct location, just enough to fool the website involved.
It certainly makes it the obvious choice if you want to use on a media streamer, games console or smart TV but it works perfectly on pretty much any network enabled device.
However there’s a better way to find out than listening to me, try it out. The company I’ve been using for the last two years has a 14 day free trial with no restrictions at all. What’s more it’s one of the only ones that will also switch your Netflix account to the US version (if you wish) which it is by far the best version with loads more movies and TV shows than any other version.
Anyway the free trial is available below which gives you 14 days out to try it out for yourself, yes that’s right you can watch UK TV online free without any obligations.