Last month, we posted a blog about the geo-unblocking services offered by New Zealand broadband companies. The combined service allowed customers automatic access to offshore content sites such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer that were not authorized for distribution in New Zealand. New Zealand customers paid for this offshore content but evaded the geographical restrictions by making it appear to the content services that they were located in an authorized jurisdiction. Local media companies understandably considered this arrangement to be an illegal attempt to bypass their exclusive distribution arrangements with content providers, and brought a legal case against the broadband companies offering bundled geo-unblocking services.
A number of New Zealand companies are bundling their broadband offerings with technology that automatically allows their subscribers to access geographically-restricted content from providers in other countries. BBC iPlayer, for instance, offers users on-demand access to more than 2000 hours of the best British TV shows. But it is available only in certain countries and the BBC uses geo-location technology to restrict access geographically to users in authorized countries. A variety of mechanisms allow users to “geo-unblock,” that is, to bypass these technical geo-location restrictions. For instance, using this technology a user in New Zealand can appear to be in the United Kingdom and so receive programming authorized by BBC for distribution in Britain, but not in New Zealand, or available in New Zealand only through an authorized distributor. Similar geographically-restricted content providers include Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.