New Zealand Internet service provider Slingshot has rolled out a “global mode” option to its customers. This feature allows them to access content from other countries normally barred by international licensing restrictions. Namely, customers can now access the U.S. versions of Netflix, Hulu and similar services which would otherwise be unavailable.
Netflix offers a different array of content in several different countries due to licensing laws, but currently has no support for New Zealand at all. Customers, as one might expect, are not too happy with the situation and Slingshot has taken advantage of the discontent.
Global mode uses VPN technology, which masks the user’s location by running content through servers in different countries. Essentially it displays the user in a completely different part of the world as well as cloaking their identity.
Image via Slingshot
This technique very clearly goes against the terms of service typical of streaming sites, but Slingshot avoids blame with clever wording. The description of the global mode options suggests that it is useful for entertaining international visitors that would normally have access to the service and thus would appreciate continued access when abroad. Of course, there is no way for the ISP to claim knowledge that a customer would use it differently than intended.
There are other places that are much less elusive about what service they are providing. ViewQwest, an ISP in Singapore, is one such example. Their “Freedom VPN” service blatantly states in its description that it is for accessing international content that would otherwise be unavailable.
VPNs are commonly used around the world, but it is unusual as of now for ISPs to provide the option as opposed to consumers seeking it out privately. With the growing popularity of VPNs it is conceivable that Netflix and other streaming services will turn a blind eye to these situations, unless subjected to legal pressure or made aware of a significant opportunity for investment.
Edited by Alisen Downey