Introduction (The problem with paradise)
I live in the United States Virgin Islands which is not a "state" but a "territory" that is affiliate with and part of the US. For some reason because we are not one of the "states" certain online services such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video and MP3 downloads exclude us from using their service. This is particularly annoying in the case of Netflix because they make us pay the full price to get DVD's by mail which come with the streaming option, but don't give us the streaming option.
Here's what it looks like when you try to stream netflix from outside of one of the 50 states:
And here's what it looks like when you try to use Amazon from outside of the 50 states:
I recently was able to get a faster internet connection and was craving access to these services. I decided to do some research and I found a great, affordable way to have my internet traffic appear to come from within the 50 states no matter where I was physically located.
The solution is to use a VPN service and the one that I found worked great is called HMA! Pro VPN Service. HMA stands for "Hide My Ass" which is a funny name for a very useful service. What makes it great is that it is very easy to use. HMA provides software that anyone can use for creating their "tunnel" to the states. You simply select where you want to come from (they have servers all over the world, from my location in the VI the Florida servers provide the best speed), press connect and you will now appear to be coming from that location! Here's a screenshot:
The only concern I had with this is speed. I am fortunate to have a very fast (for the USVI) connection. I was concerned that adding in the VPN tunnel would limit my connection speeds. Fortunately this has not proven to be the case. Here are speed test results to Washington DC both with and without the VPN turned on (notice the distance to DC cut in half):
As you can see the connection speeds are negligably different, actually in other tests I received lower settings without the VPN so they are within a margin of error from each other. Ping times are consistently slower on the VPN connection, but only by about 8-15ms which is insignificant. I've also run this VPN service across a 1MB DSL connection and had no difference in speed with the VPN connected or not connected.
Real world performance:
How does Netflix work when the VPN is up? In a word, perfectly. With the above speeds I am able to stream movies in High Definition with full quality which looks fantastic from Netflix. I get no stuttering or interruptions for the most part and watching movies is a pleasure. I am also now able to buy/rent content from Amazon's streaming video service and buy MP3's from the Amazon MP3 site with no problems.
How much does this cost? It is surprisingly affordable when you consider that they have to funnel all of your traffic through their server. What I did was try it for 1 month which was $11.52. But once I was satisfied it worked ok I bought a 12 month plan which is $78.66 or only $6.55/month. Considering what one pays for Netflix here without the ability to do streaming the extra $6.55/month is well worth it to get access to the large library of streaming video. It's far better to cut the number of DVD's that they ship to you down a month from 3 to 1 for $10 less a month and pay for this service for a net savings of $3.45 plus instant access to streaming video.
I hope this helps with other people in my situation. This is also a useful service for travellers who have to go abroad but still want to watch their netflix movies from their hotel rooms etc. If you found this helpful and want to check out HMA VPN please use this link to do so, for full disclosure I do get a "referral fee:"
If you are more technically inclined, stay tuned to this blog as in the future I will post how I actually got a Linksys E3000 router to connect to the HMA! Pro VPN service so that all of my devices (XBox 360, Roku) in my house show up as coming from a stateside address! This let me buy a Roku player that hooks to my TV and watch Netflix in my bedroom or from my XBox 360 in my living room! Update: I have finally gotten around to posting these instructions on the blog here!