Slingshot, New Zealand’s third largest ISP, has been operating its own VPN service for a year. Called Global Mode, it protects network traffic to and from Slingshot customers and lets them access otherwise geoblocked international sites. Now the carrier has come out and clearly stated that the service is explicitly for its customers to easily access Netflix and other blocked sites.
In an interview with The New Zealand Herald, Slingshot general manager Taryn Hamilton was upfront about the use and purpose of the telco’s Global Mode service: “No beating around the bush. This is to watch Netflix, this is to watch BBC iPlayer, this is to watch Hulu, this is to watch Amazon Prime.”
Hamilton said that users actually signing up for Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu — a process which requires a valid US billing address — was up to them, and that Slingshot was effectively only providing unrestricted access to those sites. “This is just enabling people to consume those services if they want to. Kiwis deserve to watch the same stuff that guys in the States do and at the same price.”
Signing up with a false address is a breach of those services’ terms and conditions, but it’s not a breach that can be easily checked or enforced; it also doesn’t stop the up to 200,000 Australians (according to estimates in Variety) who currently access Netflix through various VPN services like UnoTelly, UnblockUS and HideMyAss.
Slingshot’s comments show how strongly the ISP is invested in providing unfettered worldwide ‘net access, and how frustrating geoblocking and geo-restricting content can be for end users. This kind of transparency and openness is rare from an ISP, the likes of which in Australia usually stay quiet about what their users are doing with their Internet connections. Of Australia’s ISPs, iiNet is the most vocal about the topic, with chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby recently putting it quite bluntly: “Using a proxy service is child’s play, literally.
“VPN services are, once again, child’s play to use, just by installing the software and clicking a button to mask location and hide activities from prying eyes. The only way the government could stop this traffic would be to block all encrypted traffic, a Herculean task that even the most determined dictatorships struggle to enforce.” [NZ Herald]