The wife and I stopped paying for cable TV a few years back. It's one of the best investments we've ever made, especially considering how much low hanging shit passes for newsertainment these days. However, in order to help ensure that we always do have something compelling to watch, I signed us up for subscriptions to Netflix and the NFL’s Game Rewind. Between those options and being able to watch a few other shows online for free (like The Daily Show, for example), we're totally satisfied. Well, scratch that: we're mostly satisfied. As it turns out, we found ourselves unable to watch the pageantry unfold online earlier this month when the 2014 Sochi Olympic games launched.
Here in the States, NBC paid $4.3 billion dollars to broadcast the Olympics and they never do a good job of it. To make matters worse, their online offerings — and please excuse my technical terminology here — sucks balls. In fact, NBC’s Olympic coverage regularly sucks balls, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised by their rather predictable ball-sucking. But I am.
I’m surprised because rather than do what every other first world nation does — make old events available available to anyone to watch online for free — they instead force you to prove that you're a cable TV subscriber. Which the wife and I are not. And if you’re not a valid cable TV subscriber then, tough shit: NBC has determined that you can’t watch any of "their" replays of Olympic coverage.
So, forced with a situation where my freedom was being hampered, I did what any freedom-loving American would do in my position. I fought back using the power of the free market and a little something I like to call: "research". Here's what my research uncovered.
- The Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) serves up, on their Olympics website, a delightful number of video replays of super cool Olympic events, including the entire opening ceremonites. And so does the BBC.
- All of the videos on these public websites are free, but made only available to those with a local Canadian or British IP address. This practice is known as "geo-fencing".
- Using a virtual private network (VPN) client is not illegal in the US when accessing free, public websites.
- By using a particular VPN client like Tunnel Bear, my IP address can appear to be either Canadian or British. Presto: I'm now able to access the CBC's or BBC's Olympic coverage.
- Tunnel Bear is free and streaming unlimited data through their servers costs $5 per month.
But is doing this legal? Because I don't advocate being a douche bag or breaking the law. So I indulged in a bit more of the aforementioned research:
The Electronc Frontier Foundation (EFF) not only believea this practice is legal but, in another article, recommends Tunnel Bear, the very same VPN client, I stumbled upon. PCWorld claims using a VPN is absolutely legal. Lastly. while this article in Forbes indicates that the legality of out-smarting geo-fencing is unclear, they also mention that the CBC's response to outsmarting their technology will be technological, not legal.
Is it perfect? No. It's not the same as watching on TV. Even with my high-speed internet, the bandwidth takes a bit of a hit. But it works. And I don't ever have to deal with NBC again.
So go ahead. Invest the $5 and watch all the Olympics you like online. It'll feel like it's worth at LEAST $4.3 billion, eh?