Is Netflix Really Blocking VPN Services? (UPDATED)

Netflix Home Screen

Is Netflix Blocking VPN Services?

The easy answer to this is “yes.”

Though rumors of a Netflix ban on Virtual Private Networks have been floating through the blogosphere and tech news world for several years, it was January of 2016 when Netflix put the proverbial nail in the coffin of the dream of those Netflix viewers hoping to watch their favorite programs through a VPN.

Despite the fact that over 36,000 Netflix users have signed a petition against this action, Netflix remains steadfast in their rejection of users accessing their content through Virtual Private Networks.

However, this does not mean all hope is lost. Several VPN providers, such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN have been offering working solutions for Netflix. The sustainability of these solutions is up for question, but many are working for now.

Stay tuned to FlashRouters for related information on Netflix and VPNs. Now, for some notes on this topic…

The Background on Netflix VPN Blocking

About one year ago, Netflix pushed through an update on their Android App (version 3.7.2) as they do very frequently. Usually, an app update includes a few bug fixes, some interface updates, maybe a new feature here and there. But this update did something else that has caused this eruption of news.

According to TorrentFreak among others, the Netflix app began to force or hardcode a Google DNS lookup. To the average user this means nothing. But for the enraged, this meant that the Netflix app now prevents being tricked by DNS masking tools.

Before going any further, we should make it clear that use of the term VPN in most of these reports is incorrect and confusing. The term that should have been used is DNS masking tools or SmartDNS. Users of secure VPN service solutions such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN have reported no interruptions due to this app modification.

What is DNS and why it is important to know how to optimize your use of them?

image via

What is DNS?

If you are a loyal FlashRouter reader you probably already know the ins and outs of DNS from our What is DNS & SmartDNS post which covered this a few years ago. If you happened to miss that one, we’ll give a short summary.

DNS is a protocol that uses a set of standards for exchanging data on the Internet. It’s job is to convert a user-friendly domain name (like into an IP address (or a string of location-relaying digits) that computers use to identify one another.

Think of DNS server like your cellphone contact list; you tap the name and the phone translates that tap into a phone number.

So there are different DNS servers which produce different lookup results. So one DNS phonebook might tell Netflix to send you to the US version of the site. This is the very simple way of explaining how SmartDNS works. It offers a phonebook that can potentially trick a website into thinking you are not where you are without changing your real location/IP address.

The Netflix SmartDNS Problem

While VPN service has legitimate security and privacy uses, SmartDNS is often tied to the wish to get access to content without a specific concern for an encrypted connection to the Internet.

SmartDNS offers no encryption or IP address changing but rather gives you access to a premium connection list. The benefit is potentially unblocked access without the speed cost of high level encryption and tunneling your traffic over long distances.

This Netflix Android app update actually makes the app check the Google servers which don’t have the phonebook you want to use from your SmartDNS provider thereby preventing you from bypassing any geoblock.

An action like this has also been a danger with using SmartDNS providers as they were exploiting a loophole which most content providers have ignored. But once they decide to close a loophole what do you get but angry consumers who just want things to stay the way they were.

How to Fix the Netflix Android App Update?

According to multiple outlets, issues have been reported with SmartDNS services such as Unotelly, UnoDNS, and Unblockus. However this issue has had no effect on users of VPN services where traffic is tunneled and encrypted through an alternate location or country.

The issue for SmartDNS is that it plays a trick with Netflix servers by sending the domain name inquiry through a US based server, while never masking your real IP address in your native country.

For SmartDNS users, FlashRouters offers a solution in our enhanced routers that offer advanced DNS setup options. A FlashRouter with alternative firmware allows you to reroute the traffic through the Netflix app to the DNS server that you want.

By creating a default DNS within the router, the hardcoded DNS server on the Netflix app can be bypassed and ignored allowing your previous services to work as usual or you can choose to use on of the supported 40+ VPN providers to integrate privacy and encryption via OpenVPN or PPTP.

Netgear R7000 Nighthawk - Apply iPhone 6 Wireless-AC Router

The Netgear R7000 AC1900 Nighthawk DD-WRT

Using a high-powered WiFi device like the Netgear R7000 Nighthawk or the Linksys WRT1900ACS DD-WRT, allows for network wide integration of VPN services or SmartDNS services with a single setup. Once that setup is done, any device that passes through the FlashRouter no longer be affected by this Android, or Roku, or Apple iOS update.

Not only that but the firmware installed on your router allows you to take full control of your network and settings out of the hands of your ISP. Whether it is boosting your wireless signal or prioritizing your favorite sites or applications like Netflix, a FlashRouter offers a wide range options not available on default routers on Amazon or your local Best Buy.

Why Did Netflix Implement this DNS Hardcoding?

There are many reasons this update may have occurred but one popular explanation seems to be Netflix’s impending entrance into Australia.

A iDigitalTimes piece from September stated that more than 200,000 users in Australia were utilizing VPN for Netflix. It appears that to allay some content provider’s fears in that country Netflix did their due diligence in closing a loophole.

Even the Sony hacks provided proof that they were mad at Netflix’s “failure to block overseas VPN,” according to Ars Technica. So it is not surprising that Netflix would take some token steps to react.

International Netflix Users Ain’t Too Happy

Besides the hundreds of comments on that original Reddit post as well as the heavy action on the many articles from online, this Crave Online headline might just sum it up best, “Netflix Blocking Foreign VPN Users is a Ridiculously Stupid Move.”

From threats of cancellation via protest, the outcry of frustrated consumers has been heard loud and clear. For travellers, international businessmen or users stationed overseas in the military, VPN has become an invaluable tool for not losing access while they traverse the world whether it is the UK, Asia, the Middle East or South America.

Netflix’s Response to the VPN Blocking Revelation

According to a BBC article from CES, Netflix “denied reports it had stepped up its attempts to block access via virtual private networks (VPNs)… its existing policy against the use of VPNs to circumvent geographical content barriers remained unchanged. But it said its service would still work via some VPNs.”

Quoting Netflix’s chief product officer Neil Hunt “The claims that we have changed our policy on VPN are false…People who are using a VPN to access our service from outside of the area will find that it still works exactly as it has always done.”

This is a slippery slope for Netflix. Netflix must straddle the line between their appeasing content partners and their customers. Regional distributors are highly protective of their rights as they do bear the cost of these productions.

Netflix is also in the awkward position on its content catalog. In some countries, they are forced to charge up to twice as much even though they offer half the amount of films and TV series.

Differences in country by country Netflix choice can be vast and frustrating. And customers seeing greener pastures in another country, which isn’t too hard with all the information out there, will try to find a way and limitations based on the country they are connecting from, visting, or living in.

The BBC also reported that, “Netflix said it did routinely block the work-arounds using “industry standard” techniques, but there was no special effort being undertaken to block more of them than usual,” claiming “that the company had added a ‘failsafe’ on its Android app to help users whose DNS provider was unreliable.”

Yet, it is doubtful that Netflix would ever base its entire corporate policy on the needs of any single country or movie studio. But they also have no interest in directly violating the will of a country where a legitimate expansion is occurring. Still, there is clear interest for many users to buy the product in Australia and other soon to expanded regions.

But Hunt went on to say about did backhandedly confirm the Aussie factor by saying, “The reality is we blacklist known VPNs in accordance with our content contracts – Foxtel, for example, owns House of Cards in Australia so they kind of like us to block them. But we are not changing our policy. It remains the same as it ever was.”

Conclusion on the Netflix “VPN” Block

These frustration tactics of cat and mouse will likely not work for long as users want access to the same content and level playing field. If a user didn’t want to pay for it, there are many illegitimate sources of this content.

But Netflix has become so popular and loved that users like the convenience and content and consistent quality. Yet, increasingly, archaic regional regulations are crushing innovation and access, forcing users to alternative solutions.

As stated before, many international users have legitimate reasons to connect to the internet through VPN providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN. VPN is not used to violate copyright law, it is used to offer Internet connected users security, privacy, and encryption so that they can feel safe in a digital world that seems to be murkier every day.

Whether it is dissidents communicating under an opressive regime or reporters trying to communicate with sources, VPN is a go to method of private activity and communication.

How Can a Better Wireless Router Improve Netflix Instant Quality?
Actions like this from Netflix are a good enough reason to consider taking complete control of your network at a router level with a premium WiFi and networking device from FlashRouters. It only takes one update to ruin the setup on single device but these type of updates have no effect on a network wide setup within a router.

For Netflix to come out directly against a secure and encrypted Internet with a blanket VPN ban on users would be silly and an equally bad PR move.

It is not an inconceivable scenario that a US military serviceman, serving on US territory abroad, is relying on a foreign Internet connection. The only method for gaining and maintaining access to their preferred home content like Netflix would be through a VPN connection. Imagine the headline “Netflix Cutting Off the US Military”, now that would be great for business huh?

Editor’s Note: This article is intended to be informative to keep Internet users updated about the use of their Netflix subscription in conjunction with VPN. FlashRouters does not encourage users to violate Netflix terms of service or laws related to the rights of streaming service content holders in various countries.

Updated – 5/24/16

50 thoughts on “Is Netflix Really Blocking VPN Services? (UPDATED)

      1. ian

        As said in this article I think they are blacklisting popular VPN services. I have my own VPN using openvpn on a Linux vm and this so far hasn’t had any problems. I did notice though that when using my browser through this VPN it seems to have checked my cookies or browser cache to detect the usage of a VPN and blocked me with a generic error message, When I cleared this it worked again (it also blocked me when using chrome incognito mode). I also use a Netflix app on my TV and this also seems to have a similar problem sometimes, but I can’t figure out how to clear the local app data for this.

    1. Petty Officer Igoe

      Your comment about the US Military is EXACTLY my scenario. Currently in Souda Bay Crete (a greek Island) and technically on “US Soil”. However can’t connect through a VPN to Netflix. This has also happened while in Japan.
      The interesting thing is that I’m using US government issued computer (for use with MWR) so this means I’m using US purchased equipment, with US software on US soil and I can’t watch my US subscription to Netflix. So glad I chose to serve overseas.

  1. Rich

    If anything, Netflix should find a way to integrate VPN into their own software and then proceed to tell the governments and ISP’s that try to block or throttle them (unless they pay a ransom), to pound sand.

  2. Chris

    Netflix can just redirect to the owner’s contry the page with the logon infos. No matter vpn is part of the game or not 😉

  3. Donna

    Netflix is not serious about this. They are merely paying lip service to their regional content providers.

    As Chris said, they can easily lock this down to a region based on the customers payment information. Hulu, Spotify, Google Play Store, Apple iTunes and a host of others already do this. It’s not rocket science.

    Netflix probably generates a ton of revenue from out of region subscribers and my guess…… they want to continue doing this.

    1. Somebody

      If they could just please hurry up and implement THAT — netflix region locked to billing country, then it would end this whole stupid cat and mouse game once and for all.

      Because all I’d have to do is log into my netflix account and change the billing address associated with my credit card. I already have 4 addresses on my credit card in two different countries, all of which are accepted as a valid billing address.

      The reason why they don’t implement THAT, however, is because they aren’t legally allowed to give you YOUR country’s catalog when you are somewhere else.

  4. Martin

    Hi, I have a flashrouter with DD-WRT and a VPN by PureVPN. on the 22 Jan 2016 I receive the following message from Netflix. You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again. I have been working with my VPN provider to try and resolve this matter, unsuccessfully to date. So, yes Netflix can and will block users accessing US content via VPNs.

    1. Somebody

      Except that it is on a case-by-case basis. They can’t actually detect that you are using a VPN, they can only detect that there are currently 2000 customers who happen to be using the SAME IP ADDRESS. So they add that IP address to the blacklist.

      If you can get your hands on a US IP address that isn’t shared by so many people, for instance, somebody’s HOME network IP address, then the number of accounts accessing netflix from that IP address will remain low enough that it won’t trip their detection. In essence, they CAN’T block you.

  5. Honi

    Hey guys I live in Australia and have been using VPNs to access Netflix for over a year. I use PIA and guess what as of 2 days ago I can no longer access US content on Netflix. I get a message saying I’m using a blocker or proxy. It really sucks as we get only a quarter of the content available to the US. I can only hope enough people are outraged so eithe Netflix changes to blocking of VPNs or the VPN providers work out away around this.

    1. Martin

      Hey Honi,

      Similar situation here using PureVPN. They are currently looking into a solution. Appears as though they did a blanket sweep as it all started around the same day internationally.

    2. SirLurkalot

      I agree Honi, except that now I can’t even watch Australian Netflix using VPN with an Australian proxy. All content is blocked unless I disable my VPN and expose my entire home network to the internet….thanks Netlfix, what a champ.

  6. Graeme

    As of 24 January, HidemyAss VPN from Belgium to the UK is blocked by Netflix on my ApplTV and smartphone. UK only content is nor accessible.

  7. Kellie

    Mine was blocked 🙁 Keeps coming up wrong somthing wrong and you are using a proxy so I am back to normal netflix.. with crap choice.

    1. joeso Post author

      The workarounds are developed by the VPN providers as the issue is with there addresses and servers not our hardware which we have no control over.

  8. af

    I for one am pretty disgusted with them. I’ve been using IPVanish for 2 years now with no issue, but tonight, Netflix blocked everything I tried to watch. They told me they do that for licensing issues. Well, if they can’t even tell I am from within the USA based on my account information, then they don’t need my business. I cancelled my account. Good job, Netflix – you just lost a customer.

  9. tonip1

    I use IPVanish. Nextflix and Hulu are both blocked. Is there a workaround that a non IT person could do? I don’t think I have the technical knowledge to set up my own VPN.

  10. DougT

    I was using JustFreeVPN for a while here, and now its blocked. F%$K NetFlix. I will cancel and go totally torrent…..

  11. DougT

    Nevermind !!! Im back up and running. Watching US Netlix right now. LOL. Easy, just had to try a few things.

  12. JT

    I don’t think Doug is replying. He’s either staying quiet for a reason or he’s full of sh*t. I tend to lean towards full of it only because in my experience people who post vague brags with “LOL” in them tend to be full of it.

    But I’ll say this: last year I bought 1 year subscriptions to six different vpn services, not because of Netflix but because I work in a high security industry and I mask all of my traffic so my research isn’t traceable. One of my services is still working;, the other five are all experiencing the same issue others are reporting. But here’s the rub. I have a real disincentive to say which service is working because that would likely lead to that service no longer working; I can say unequivocally that public posts are being hoovered in to look for (loop)holes on this issue using automated analysis tools to identify which services are working and which are not (and no, I don’t work for Netflix, I just happen to have connections to some vendors through my job that I know for certain are performing this work for multiple customers). So I have no way to prove that I’m not full of it either .: )

    I’ll also say that what really ticks me off about this isn’t the crossing borders thing, I rarely did that anyway, but rather that when Netflix was having their slap fight with the ISPs, vpn was often the only way to get usable service out of it, and I don’t recall them rushing to offer discounts while their “legit” service was crap. So now, by blocking vpn they are resigning us to whatever miserable service is available the next time they decide to squabble with one another.

  13. Jan

    I am been using ipvanish for netflix and within the past few weeks being being blocked, i however noticed that if i uninstall the program and reinstall ipvanish it works. See response from ipvanish on how to do this: Let’s Get Started:
    To begin, uninstall the application if it is listed in the Add/Remove Programs window (It is called Programs and Features If you have Windows Vista/ 7/ 8.

    Go to your network connections which is usually found within your Network and Sharing Center. Locate any TAP, VPN or ipvanish connections and remove them (usually right-clicking and then choosing “Remove” or “Delete”). For TAP drivers, you may have to do the following to remove them:

    * Right-click on Computer/My Computer icon on your desktop and choose Manage
    * Click on Device Manager
    * Within Network Adapters you will find the TAP Adapter(s) which can be removed by right-clicking to get the option

    Next, we need to delete some folders where IPVanish stores files:

    1. Open your run prompt by pressing the windows key and r at the same time.
    2. Type %homepath%AppDataLocal and hit enter
    3. Delete the IPVanish and folders

    1. Open your run prompt by pressing the windows key and r at the same time.
    2. Type %temp% and hit enter
    -This will open a temp folder with a lot of files in it
    3. Find all files starting with IPVanish and delete them

    After you’ve finished deleting these folders, go ahead and restart your computer.

    Now it is time to reinstall IPVanish:
    * Download the latest version of IPVanish for Windows here
    * Be sure to right-click on the installer file and choose “Run as Administrator”.

  14. Nick

    We should all boycott Netflix if we everybody cancels their subscription around the world on the same date and not sign back up until vpn access is available! So 30th March 2016 or before every cancel your subscription until further notice.

  15. SB

    Another PIA user and the block occurred 3 days ago. I hadn’t realized what was going on until I finally called into Netflix and did some DDG-fu. We are not amused, Netflix.

  16. Steve

    I use ipvanish in Australia and it is definitely blocked. I also use location guard, with a US-based VPN terminus, to no avail. Cancelling Netflix after I watch Falling Skies seasons 4 & 5 from the Australian site. 🙂 Anyone hear of IPVanish doing any work on getting around this? Maybe IP Address rotations or something…

  17. Ken

    At least a dozen people I know have dropped Netflix and like myself have gone back to downloading what I want to see. Easy solution VPN and torrents.

    1. Steve

      I’m still using the trial version, will wait to see if it gets blocked. I’m in canada accessing us netflix

  18. tonip1

    Hulu is blocking also. They began to block VPNs before Netflix. Way to send people to “alternative” sites.

  19. PB Russell

    Active US Navy living in Japan. I can confirm that I am being denied services to Netflix (as well as Hulu) due to the VPN block. There should be a confirmation of country of origin or something instead of this bothersome VPN issue. I’ve already paid extra money for the VPN and now I can’t even use it. I’m here for two more years and I can’t finish shows I started watching in America. Thanks for the slap in the face. This easily makes it harder for home to feel like home.

    1. joeso Post author

      Hey PB,

      I am truly sorry to hear that and sadly we have heard many similar issues.

      To us, we see this as an inexcusable slap in the face and that you deserve to keep the feel of home as much as possible.

      Contact and we can try to give you our latest updates on the situation. At this time, we are avoiding posting up-to-the-minute solutions so they don’t get targeted but we may have something that can work for you.

      Thanks for your service and hopefully we can get you sorted.

    2. Lars

      I can tell you that Stremr.TV works fine with Netflix USA. I used it on Tuesday from Hong Kong. However, you can only chance country every 12 hour and Netflix is excluded from their free trial

  20. RLKIII

    It would make far more sense for Netflix to address this issue the other way around: offer an expanded region selection for a slightly increased monthly fee. Say, $17.99 a month for access to 3 regions (your local region +2 more) or even $35.00 @ month to access ALL regions. This way they continue to offer a service to their customers and can use some of the increased costs through subs to offset the distribution costs in said regions. Would I pay more for access to other regions? Of course I would. Wouldn’t you?


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