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 watching American Netflix in Canada 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. Another nice thing about ExpressVPN is that it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. This lets you test it out yourself and receive a refund if you aren’t completely satisfied.
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ExpressVPN: the overall best VPN for watching Netflix in Canada
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.
Beyond reliability, ExpressVPN is also extremely easy to use. The interface consists of a giant green button. How simple is that? Most other VPN apps are a bit more challenging for beginners to use.
All you have to do is download the ExpressVPN program, pick a server, click the button and that’s it– you’re in. No technical skills are required. A variety of ExpressVPN apps let you connect to American Netflix on a wide variety of platforms. Because ExpressVPN has apps for Android and iTunes, you can easily connect to American Netflix on any Apple TV or Android-based TV device.
After you’ve logged on, you can pull up Netflix and enjoy whatever American content you please. You won’t notice any big differences in the Netflix interface. There won’t be any indication that you’ve crossed a virtual border. But what you will see are all kinds of movies and TV shows that weren’t there before. Licensing is complicated and different deals need to be worked out with each territory that Netflix is in. That’s why each territory has different content.
Another nice thing about using a VPN to side-step Netflix’s content geo-block is that you can always go back to the Canadian version of Netflix whenever you please. All you have to do is disconnect from ExpressVPN and then refresh your browser– or restart your Netflix app if you’re using a TV device to access Netflix. Once you do that, you’ll see all the content that was there before.
Why we think ExpressVPN is the best
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.
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.
ExpressVPN participates in independent audits
ExpressVPN is one of several VPN brands that has promised to take part in regular independent tests. At the beginning of 2019, ExpressVPN published an audit that was conducted by the security firm Cure53. Cure53 determined that ExpressVPN had “no security issues which would allow [attackers] to influence the state of the VPN connection via a malicious web page.” The report went on to state that the issues that were identified, which were “minor mistakes in the WebExtension’s code,” were easily fixed.
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. The free trial gives you the opportunity to try ExpressVPN for yourself and see that it works.
Here’s everything you need to do to get started with ExpressVPN.
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Step 1: Sign Up for ExpressVPN
Visit the ExpresssVPN website to get three free months of VPN service. The site looks like this:
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. Installing ExpressVPN on an Android-based TV device is even easier. All you have to do is go to Google Play and download the ExpressVPN app. For Apple TV, you do the same thing only you go to Apple’s app store.
- Select the installer file and double-click to begin the installation process. If you’re using one of ExpressVPN’s apps, the process is pretty much the same.
- 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:
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
- Last time we checked with the ExpressVPN customer service team, they told us that the San Francisco server was the best server to use for connecting to American Netflix. 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”:
- Now, select San Francisco. As mentioned earlier, the San Francisco server is the one ExpressVPN was using for helping their users get into American Netflix the last time we checked. If San Francisco doesn’t work, ExpressVPN may be using a different server for American Netflix. Just contact the customer service team if you run into any issues and they’ll provide you with the server name you need to use.
- After making your choice, double-click the location name. ExpressVPN will automatically begin to connect:
- Once connected, your ExpressVPN client will tell you that the VPN is “On”:
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:
After I connect to ExpressVPN, I can watch all The Walking Dead episodes that I can access while I’m in the US.
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.
The fact that ExpressVPN uses a designated server to help their users connect to American Netflix is a clever move on the part of the ExpressVPN team. It likely lets them adapt fast if Netflix makes a change on their end to try to stop Netflix users from changing their license zone.
Whatever strategy ExpressVPN is using, it seems to be working. I’ve never had a problem getting into American Netflix with this VPN service.
COVID-19 triggered a VPN usage spike
What do most people do when they’re stuck indoors? “Watch TV” is one of the first activities that usually comes to mind. When Coronavirus epidemic blossomed into a full blown global pandemic last April, VPN usage spiked up 124%. The reason for that is easy enough to understand. People located in Europe, Canada and other countries were probably attempting to get more out of their Netflix accounts by logging in through the United States.
Can’t connect? Live chat with customer support
At times, you may find that ExpressVPN won’t connect to American Netflix. This is because– as mentioned earlier– the service rotates their American Netflix servers every so often. 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.
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.”