At the end of 2016, Netflix started cracking down on the Canadians that were attempting to log in to the American version of Netflix via VPN.  Fortunately, the streaming video service’s clumsy “whack-a-mole” method of blocking VPN servers is pretty easy to sidestep.

The key to getting into American Netflix is finding a VPN provider that adapts quickly to changes and is geo-hopper friendly.  We feel that ExpressVPN is the best all-around choice for Canadians looking to gain access to the full Netflix catalog.

5-Minute Video Summary

If you’d like to watch the 5-minute condensed video guide to this article, you can do so below.

ExpressVPN: the overall best VPN for accessing American Netflix

There are tons of fly-by-night VPN services that cater to disgruntled Canadian Netflix users.  So in order to come up with a list of VPN services to recommend to our readers, we asked the following questions about each VPN service we tried out:

  • Does it have a large number of US-based servers?  VPN services with only one or two American servers are much easier to block.  That’s why if we found a VPN service that didn’t have many United States-based VPN servers, we removed it from our list.
  • Are its ports configurable or static?  If a VPN service only uses port 1194, it’s easier to block.  1194 is a common VPN port used by many VPN services.  VPNs that use multiple ports to transfer data are much more difficult for Netflix to track and block.
  • Does it use obfuscation methods to help its users to avoid detection?  The best VPN services use port forwarding and other advanced data transfer methods to allow their users to go unnoticed on the web.

After evaluating several VPN services, we found that ExpressVPN was the best VPN service for accessing American Netflix.

ExpressVPN has a number of specialty servers that work incredibly well with American Netflix. Best of all: all the servers are stable and reliable. Competing services will let you get to American Netflix sometimes, but quality-of-service problems are sometimes an issue.

Perhaps the biggest thing to like about ExpressVPN is that its technical support team offers best-in-class customer service. We’ve tried out many different VPN services, but ExpressVPN was the most responsive. Seconds after we submitted a question through the chat interface, a support representative responded with an intelligent answer.

How to Unblock American Netflix in Canada with ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is the best way to unlock American Netflix in the UK. Now that ExpressVPN is offering three free months of service, anyone can try it out risk-free.

Here’s everything you need to do to get started with ExpressVPN.

Step 1: Sign Up for ExpressVPN

Visit the ExpresssVPN website to get three free months of VPN service. The site looks like this:

Expressvpn
You can get three free months of service by purchasing the annual plan. If you don’t like ExpressVPN, you can get your money back up to 30 days after you buy. Source: ExpressVPN

Step 2: Download and Install the ExpressVPN Client

  • ExpressVPN’s client is super easy to install. Just log into ExpressVPN, then download the installer to your hard drive.

    expressvpn client
    Note: the version number of the installer will change when ExpressVPN releases updates. Source: ExpressVPN
  • Select the installer file and double-click to begin the installation process.
  • After installation has completed, you’ll be prompted to run the ExpressVPN client on your PC or Mac computer. Once loaded up, your client should look like the following:
expressvpn client
ExpressVPN’s easy-to-use interface consists of three large buttons. Source: ExpressVPN

Step 3: Login to ExpressVPN and connect to the San Francisco server

  • Before you can use ExpressVPN, you’ll need to login with your credentials. Once logged in, ExpressVPN will keep your client logged in automatically as long as it has an internet connection
  • To log into San Francisco, select Change Location on the lower left-hand side of the window. 
  • A window will pop up providing you a list of countries to choose from. Find and select the United States, or use the search bar at the top and type in “United States”:
expressvpn bbc iplayer
The San Francisco server is one of several ExpressVPN servers that are optimized for streaming Netflix. Source: ExpressVPN
  • Now, select San Francisco. (The San Francisco server is ideal for logging into restricted streaming services outside of the US.)
  • After making your choice, double-click the location name. ExpressVPN will automatically begin to connect:
The connection process sometimes takes one or two minutes, depending on server traffic. Source: ExpressVPN
  • Once connected, your ExpressVPN client will tell you that the VPN is “On”:
ExpressVPN bbc iplayer
Once you see this, you’ll be able to access American Netflix. Source: ExpressVPN

Congratulations! Setup is complete.  

ExpressVPN In Action

If you live in Canada, content that you can’t normally access abroad will suddenly appear on your Netflix account if you log in after connecting to an American VPN server that works with Netflix.

In my region, I have even less content than Canadians get when they log onto Netflix.

For example, I can’t watch one of my favorite TV shows on Netflix: The Walking Dead. Unless, of course, I use a VPN to get around Netflix’s content filters.

Here’s me trying to watch Walking Dead with ExpressVPN turned off:

running 1
When I try to look for The Walking Dead in Hungary without a VPN, Night of the Living Dead appears instead. Source: Flixed.io

After I connect to ExpressVPN, I can watch all The Walking Dead episodes that I can access while I’m in the US.

walking 1
The Walking Dead and other blocked titles appear after I log into my VPN. Source: Flixed.io

It’s really that easy. All you have to do is sign up for an ExpressVPN account, install the software, pick the San Francisco server and then press the big green connect button. After you’re logged in, you’ll be able to access all the extra content American Netflix has to offer.

Just a few years ago, using a VPN with Netflix required extra configuration steps. In addition, errors popped up all the time and the VPN services available were not all that reliable. However, ExpressVPN has made it easy for anyone to access American Netflix anywhere. You don’t have to have any special technical skills. Even if you hate computers, you can access American Netflix just minutes after creating your ExpressVPN account.

Can’t connect? Live chat with customer support

At times, you may find that ExpressVPN won’t connect to American Netflix. This is because the service rotates which servers work to unblock Netflix. This rotation is done to help ensure you will be able to continue to access Netflix and to help bypass the proxy ban Netflix has in place.

If you connect to the ExpressVPN website, you will find a live chat button on the bottom right of the screen. Simply enter your question into it and you’ll be connected to a helpdesk representative in a few seconds. They’ll ask for the email address associated with your account, and then let you know which US-based server to use.

How does Netflix manage to block VPN users?

Every VPN server– and every computer on the Internet– has a unique address called an IP address.  IP addresses on the web are just like the physical mailing addresses that postal workers when they deliver mail.  Each time a computer sends and receives information on the web, they use IP addresses to sort out who is sending what to whom.

If you log in to an American VPN server, you’re automatically assigned an American IP address.  So, from the perspective of Netflix’s VPN servers it seems as though you’re located inside the United States.

The problem for Canadian VPN users now is that Netflix has decided to block the IP addresses of many of the VPN servers that they and other international users have been using to unlock Netflix’s American catalog.  As a result of Netflix’s effort to preserve their lucrative license agreements, many people living outside the continental United States can no longer access the Netflix content that they’ve gotten used to enjoying.

The problem for Netflix is that IP address blocks are notoriously ineffective.  Internet IP addresses are by no means set in stone.  In fact, they’re pretty easy to change.  If a VPN company is willing to occasionally switch up their servers’ IP addresses, there’s no way that any type of IP address based block will ever remain in place for long.

Why is Netflix trying to block Canadian VPN users?

Netflix’s management has to be smart enough to know that attempting to play “whack-a-mole” with VPN service providers isn’t going to accomplish their goals.  So why do they insist on playing this silly little game with their paying customers?

One possible answer could be that they didn’t really have any choice in the matter.

David Glance– the University of Western Australia’s Director of the Centre for Software Practice– has suggested that content providers probably forced Netflix to act.

Dr. Glance believes that the Netflix crackdown may actually hurt content providers in the long run, especially if it encourages frustrated Netflix users to use illegal sites like PirateBay to get their entertainment fix.

“The irony of this move, however, is that people will simply resort back to torrenting TV shows and movies, but of course now with the increased safety of using the very VPN service that Netflix prompted them to use in the first place.” Dr. David Glance, University of Western Australia

He also added that similar efforts to block content and maintain license deals may eventually end up making the internet a safer and more anonymous, if it forces more internet users to sign up for VPN services.

Even though Glance and other experts are still saying that Netflix made the wrong move when it tried to ban VPN services, odds are high that Netflix’s war against VPNs will continue. Netflix hasn’t changed its VPN policy since it introduced its VPN ban back in 2016.

Netflix Has Disrupted the Traditional Business Model

Netflix and other streaming services have helped shorten the amount of it time it takes for a movie to make its way into your living room.

Movies usually debut first in the theaters. A few weeks later, most movies make their way to pay-per-view services. Then, the DVD comes out. Finally, Netflix and other streaming services are allowed to buy up the rights.

The trouble is that ever country has their own licensing players. Canada has different broadcasters than the US. Therefore, different deals need to be worked out. The same concept applies to other countries, as well. In the UK, for example, Sky and ITV compete for movie rights.

Because different countries have different broadcasters, licensing timetables move at different speeds.  It takes time for the executives involved to sort out the details of who gets to broadcast what.

Streaming technology offered by companies like Hulu and Netflix are disruptive.  They make it harder to control who gets to watch what.  So in order to preserve the old business model, executives have forced Netflix to implement content filters.

What’s next?

Are Netflix’s attempts to block certain VPN users “just for show,” or the beginning of a serious long term strategy?

One quote from Netflix’s CEO seems to indicate that the company won’t attempt to implement any new defenses against geo-hoppers anytime soon.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had this to say about VPN geo-hoppers in April of 2016.

“It’s a very small but quite vocal minority.  It’s really inconsequential to us.”

 

Conclusion

Netflix is still on a mission to block VPN users from accessing its services. If you live in Canada, it’s a good idea to sign up with a quality VPN service so that you can get the most out of your Netflix subscription.

After reviewing several of the available VPN services, we’ve decided to make ExpressVPN our go-to VPN service. ExpressVPN has excellent prices, great customer support and speedy service.

Perhaps the biggest advantage that ExpressVPN has over the competition is its excellent customer service. Customer service is key when it comes to VPN services because Netflix and other streaming services are constantly updating their anti-VPN blocks. Keeping up with the constant changes requires resources that smaller VPN companies can’t afford. ExpressVPN, however, have made customer service a priority. As soon as Netflix makes a change, ExpressVPN adapts to it almost immediately.