Internet Freedom in Russia

A recent poll reveals some interesting things about the Internet in Russia. More than half of all Russians are now using the Internet on a weekly basis. That might not sound like a big deal, but stop and consider that in 2006 fewer than 10% of Russians surfed the Web with any type of frequency. The rapid spread of Internet access in Russia and tight government regulations of Internet content are strong arguments for using a VPN, whether you live in the country or are just visiting.

History of Russia

Russia is officially known as the Russian Federation and is a rather large Eurasian semi-presidential republic. The history of Russia is a complex one, with the country having undergone numerous political changes throughout various regimes. Once the face of Communism, Russia has emerged in the post-Cold War era as a nation which has made strides toward democracy.

On a recent note, Russia has been in the news for offering political asylum to NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden. Snowden revealed the ways in which the NSA collects data on American Citizens. This measure could have implications on the relationship between the US and Russia which has always remained strained despite increased cooperation between the two nations.

Internet in Russia

There are a variety of methods for Internet access in Russia, including dial-up, DSL, cable, wireless, and satellite. The Internet in Russia is sometimes referred to as Runet by the government, a term given to the Russian-speaking web community. Russian is now the second most-used language on the Web.

As we stated previously, the presence of Internet in the homes of Russian citizens has exploded in the past few years, and it is projected that this growth will continue. In addition to the many homes with Internet access, those visiting Russia will find plenty of hotspots and public WiFi access points.

Internet filtering in Russia

We mentioned Edward Snowden earlier for a reason. As recently as July 10, 2013, the Russian government announced that it would seek measures that would tighten the state’s Internet controls. This is concerning because it perhaps reflects Russia’s move toward a more anti-democratic political climate. In that type of climate, Internet freedom in Russia is at serious risk.

Most of the Internet censorship in Russia to this point has involved news outlets and blogs which are critical of the government. These sites can be censored or taken down at will. Recently, however, several Russian politicians have called for the country to restrict the use of social networks like Facebook. Dimitri Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister, said that these networks are waging “cyber wars” against Russia.

In 2012, the Russian government issued a blacklist of prohibited sites which were blocked in Russia. These sites include, but are not limited to:

  • Pornographic websites. Some of these are blocked and some are not, depending on the type of content provided.
  • Drug use websites. Any websites which promote the use of drugs such as marijuana or sell drug-related merchandise (bongs, pipes, etc.) are blocked.
  • Any site with information prohibited for distribution by the government. This is the tricky one, and it allows the government a lot of latitude in blocking websites.

Unblocking Websites in Russia

Using a VPN account  while traveling in Russia can restore access to many of the websites which are currently blocked by the State. In addition, all media services such as Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer not available outside of the US and the UK can be unblocked by using a VPN.

With the recent announcement of increased Internet restriction in Russia, anyone planning to travel or work in the country needs to seriously consider setting up their own VPN account in order to avoid any inconvenience which may arise from Russian Internet censorship.

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Internet freedom in India

Inia INternetIndia enjoys a high level of Internet freedom, but state surveillance is practiced by the government and a very selective form of blocking is employed to prevent users from accessing objectionable content. You might not think of India as a repressive country, but if you happen to be traveling there you will find that much web content is unavailable without the use of a VPN.

History of India

The Republic of India is the second-largest country by population in the world, with over 1.27 billion residents. It is bordered by many smaller countries and the Indian Ocean. The country is actually the most populous democracy in the world, and the government is a benevolent one.

India gained its Independence from the United Kingdom in 1947 after the non-violent uprising led by Mahatma Gandhi. Prior to this time India was annexed by the United Kingdom through the British East India Company.

While considered an impoverished nation for many years, the level of affluence in India has been rising steadily since economic reforms in 1991. The country still faces many challenges of poverty and malnutrition, however, and it has been the victim of corruption and terrorism like so many other countries in the region.

Internet in India

The presence of a huge population and a mostly benevolent government has created a strong Internet presence in India. There are multiple ISP’s which serve the country, and a large portion of the population is connected. Recent statistics put the level of Internet penetration in India at about 8%, or 100,000,000 users. That may seem like a lot, and it is, but India is largely populated. On a per capita basis, India has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates.

Internet use in India will increase due to the country’s plans to introduce 4G service in 2013. Smartphones are very popular in India and a lot of residents access the Internet with their Android or iPhone. One study suggests that there could be 30 million smartphones in use in India by 2016.

Internet filtering in India

This is where India’s Internet story gets a little murky. Despite being a democracy and being perceived as a freedom-loving country, India maintains one of the most active Internet censorship and surveillance agencies in the world.

In 2011, India adopted new IT rules which give the government sweeping regulatory control over Internet access. One of the specific measures taken was to require all ISP’s to ban content within 36 hours of being notified that the content is objectionable. In the immediate aftermath of this legislation, Typepad and Mobango were blocked in India. In January of 2012, both Facebook and Google were issued summons by a Delhi court for violating the rules regarding objectionable content.

India issues blocks and removes them seemingly at will, so it is hard to compile a current list of which sites are restricted. These are a few of the site which have been, or are currently, banned in India:

  • YouTube, Dailymotion, and other video services. At the precise moment of this writing, access to these sites has been restored, but India has been known to ban them without warning.
  • Political Cartoons. Several of these websites have been blocked.
  • Pornographic web forums. India blocks these sites to prevent media sharing among forum users.

In June of 2013, India once again blocked 39 websites, most containing adult content, without giving any reason or law to justify their action. This is the key to understanding how Internet restriction is accomplished in India. It can be done at any time, to any site, without explanation.

Unblocking websites in India

A VPN account from VPN-accounts.com can unblock restricted websites in India in most cases. Because of the manner in which the country filters the Internet, it is highly recommended that you use a VPN inside the country.

A VPN is very effective in allowing Internet users to access Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, and a host of other services like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer which are not available in India. A VPN gives you an added level of security in addition to making these websites available, and reduces the likelihood that you will fall victim to state surveillance.

3 Steps for a VPN

01

Sign upGet an affordable VPN account.

02

ConnectConfigure the VPN on your device.

03

Enjoy VPNEnjoy the benefits of a VPN today.

Get a VPN Account

Connect & Enjoy: Internet Freedom, Privacy & security.

Global Netflix With A Vpn

As of April 2014 digital media giant Netflix was operating in a total of 41 countries around the world with a subscriber base of more than 50 million, but users of the service are still subject to some programming restrictions that leave many wondering if it is possible to enjoy global Netflix with a VPN.

It is indeed possible to access country-specific Netflix programming by using a VPN. Even though this method had been characterized by media executives as digital theft, most consumers regard cross-border viewing as completely ethical because the subscriber is already paying for Netflix access. Claiming that one can only use the version of Netflix available in their home country doesn’t make too much sense. What if a subscriber happens to be traveling or working in another country? Shouldn’t they be able to take their subscription with them the same way they pack clothes or other personal belongings?

Content shortage for countries outside the US

Netflix is an American-based company, founded in Scotts Valley, California in 1997. Originally designed as a rent-by-mail DVD service, Netflix soon outgrew its humble beginnings and embraced streaming digital content as a business model. In the beginning this service was only available to US customers but demand soon encouraged Netflix to spread into other countries such as Canada and Australia.

The problem is that the Netflix offerings in other countries have always been scarce compared to the programming available in the United States. A July 2015 article in Fortune magazine illustrates the problem.

For example, in Canada Netflix is very popular even though subscribers do not have access to many of the programs offered in the United States such as Burn Notice or Grey’s Anatomy. While some programs such as Downton Abbey do not appear in the US Netflix lineup but are accessible in Canada, the shows available to Canadian subscribers are few by comparison. This has prompted some Canadian subscribers to turn to free proxy services or websites that claim to safely change a user’s IP address to mask their country of origin.

Unfortunately, free proxies often come with a host of security flaws that can leave their users vulnerable to data theft.

Digital fence-hopping

Many subscribers have learned that global Netflix with a VPN is the most secure way to open up the US Netflix catalogue for viewing in almost every part of the world. They simply purchase VPN service from a provider that offers a US-based server, connect to that server, and then enjoy the full lineup of shows. Some have referred to this as “digital fence-hopping.”

While digital fence-hopping might not be something media executives like it is not piracy like some have claimed. In order to access Netflix in any country a person must have a valid subscription. They have paid to use the service. Individuals that use a VPN to access the US menu take the position that they have paid for the right to do so and should not be limited by geographic restrictions.

And who is to say that many of these people are not US residents to begin with that like the option of using Netflix when they travel abroad? A US-based UPS pilot that we spoke with explained to us how a VPN is a necessary part of his Netflix subscription. The pilot, who asked to remain anonymous, states:

“I regularly fly overseas, primarily to Europe, and use a VPN to access my Netflix subscription during a layover. Without the VPN my programming options in Germany or France can be very limited. I pay for a US subscription so it makes no sense to me that I am only allowed to use that subscription when I am at home which is only about half of the year.”

It also works the other way around, too. A Canadian subscriber that is visiting the US will find that many of their favorite programs are not available when they use Netflix from a US-based IP address.

What does Netflix think?

According to the Fortune magazine article, executives at Netflix have indicated they are aware of individuals accessing global Netflix with a VPN but the practice does not create a large amount of concern. And why should it? Netflix knows that it is unrealistic to expect subscribers to maintain more than one active subscription so they can use the service in multiple countries.

Anne Marie Squeo, a company spokesperson for Netflix, even went so far as to say that Netflix hopes to address the use of VPNs by addressing the core problem instead of trying to punish those that digital fence-jump. “We hope to address [using a VPN for global Netflix] by offering our content globally to audiences at the same time,” Squeo says.

Clearly, VPN use is changing the way companies view the rights of digital subscribers.

3 Steps for a VPN

01

Sign upGet an affordable VPN account.

02

ConnectConfigure the VPN on your device.

03

Enjoy VPNEnjoy the benefits of a VPN today.

Get a VPN Account

Connect & Enjoy: Internet Freedom, Privacy & security.