The One Big Problem With Unmetered Netflix Access In Australia

Netflix's announcement today of its March 24 launch date in Australia also confirmed that several Internet service providers (ISPs) will offer it unmetered, meaning binge watching hours of programming won't eat into your monthly data allowance. While that's good news, there is one catch to bear in mind.

Picture: Getty Images/Kevin Winter

iiNet (including its subsidiaries Internode, Westnet and Adam) and Optus have both confirmed that anyone viewing Netflix content using their fixed broadband services won't have that data counted against their monthly allowance. It's possible other ISPs will follow suit (though we'd be surprised if Telstra, which has its own content ambitions, is amongst them). While both ISPs offer Fetch TV, the unmetered aspect isn't Fetch-dependent; for iiNet, regular broadband, naked DSL and NBN connections will all qualify.

There is an important consideration here, however. That unmetered access will only work if you're accessing Netflix Australia. If you're using a VPN (or other similar tactics) to view Netflix US, the downloads will still count against your total. Services like iiNet's Freezone rely on you using the default settings provided by the ISP, not tweaking them to access overseas.

Netflix likes to pretend that very few people are using VPNs for access and that it can't identify the ones that are. Less partisan estimates place the potential number of customers doing that at between 200,000 and 300,000.

If you're one of those customers, you now face an interesting choice. Using a US Netflix account will almost certainly give you a broader range of shows. There are exceptions — Mythbusters is on Australian Netflix but not on the US, for instance — but the general expectation is that the US service will be larger, since many content providers have restrictive deals in Australia. We won't know for sure until launch date. However, if you stick with the American service and happen to be an iiNet/Optus/Internode/Westnet/Adam customer, you'll be using up data that might be better deployed in other ways.

The best solution for those customers? Switch between the services. While Netflix doesn't heavily publicise the fact, an active account will work anywhere in the world. If you're paying for a US Netflix service but your IP address suggests you're Australian, you'll be able to access the Australian unmetered content when your VPN is switched off. Similarly, if you're an Aussie and sign in while visiting the US, you'll see different shows.

So if a show is available on the Australian version, use that. If the show is US-only, switch on the VPN. You'll get a wider choice, and more data to use elsewhere.

I don't expect that most existing US Netflix customers in Australia will decide to change plans solely to get unmetered access — they've been willingly chewing through data until now anyway. But it is an issue to consider if you are already signed up.

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Comments

    While Netflix doesn’t heavily publicise the fact, an active account will work anywhere in the world.

    Wait... so one subscription fee pays for all regions of Netflix? Did I read that right? If so, well, that's a pretty awesome thing.

    Last edited 03/03/15 2:13 pm

      I believe it means you can access your regions account from anywhere in the world. You cannot access other Netflix regions from your account.

      i.e. you can access Netflix AU from anywhere in the world. you cannot access Netflix US etc from anywhere.

        Nope, it serves you up the content from that region. The licensing agreements netflix makes is for a show in a region, and has to deliver the content based on what region it thinks you are in, not where your account is registered.

      Yes. You pay for Netflix and get what the local servers offer.

      Assuming the local cost is $9.95/mo. as rumored, it's worth swapping over to an AU account just for that - works out marginally cheaper than the US accounts due to the weak Australian dollar.

        Sooo, can you offer a n00b some support then... Say one has Getflix for DNS, I can create an Aussie netflix account when it launches then just have my Getflix DNS region as the US and it will point back to the US content?

          Yeah, that should work. Same as if you were to set your DNS to point at Netflix UK because you really really wanted to watch old episodes of The Bill.

          I do it all the time. I moved to germany recently and I switch my netflix between US, UK and german regions with an IP spoofer...

          Works perfectly fine

      That's why you subscribe to Netflix Brazil and only pay $7AU then watch US content.

      Last edited 03/03/15 3:12 pm

        Plus the VPN cost...

          Using Hola it is completely FREE :)

            Except for the fact that with free access, Hola turns your machine into an exit node (ie: a proxy for someone else), and you have absolutely no control over the data that flows in and out of your network.

      Yes that's been the case for many years.

      When you sign up for a US netflix account, and then access canada or UK netflix, you get a friendly message about travelling abroad and how some of the shows you like to watch might not be there, etc.

      The idea is that if you travel and Netflix is available in the country you're in, you get served up their Netflix content (as the licensing deals are based on the viewers location).

      You can make Netflix think your in another country by using a VPN or a smart DNS service that allows you to change region (like Unblock-US).

      You cannot add shows from regions other than your accounts original region to your list however.

        Twice now, Netflix has detected that I am using a blocker, and thrown up an error message preventing further access until I change it. They must be getting smarter.

      Yep, so i confirmed this with Netflix.
      The content lib is based on the country you're access it from, Regardless of where you account is from.
      Ie, Aus Netflix account owner in US will get the US content lib

    I would have though it was likely that if you're watching a show that's available on Australian Netflix, it'll come through the same CDN (and will subsequently be unmetered) even if you do appear to be in a different locatioon to Netflix itself.

      The reason that the US Netflix will be metered is that you wont be accessing it from the addresses that are unmetered by your ISP, you will instead be accessing US Netflix via your VPN provider.

      AU Netflix:
      You -> ISP -> Netflix

      US Netflix:
      You -> ISP -> VPN -> Netflix

        Only if you use a VPN.. I'll hazard a guess that most Netflix subscribers use DNS redirect which only impacts your "presence" to Netflix.. the CDN connection is still to the best (usually nearest) location.

          The DNS redirection tell your system(s) to connect to a proxy instead of to Netflix directly, this is how they are able to change what your source address looks like to Netflix.

          This leaves you in much the same situation at the end of the day:

          AU Netflix:
          You -> ISP -> Netflix

          US Netflix:
          You -> ISP -> Proxy -> Netflix

      I want to know this too. Sometimes its difficult to reliably stream 1080 or Super 1080p because the closest CDN is all the way over in California. I wonder if using something like Getflix to access the US version it will still get the actual data from a (presumably) Australian CDN, if the show is available on both services.

      This is my question too, the DNS switch is to allow the connection to netflix to work, but when you watch the traffic it comes from the CDN, so in theory if they farm that out to a local CDN as well, wouldn't it be unmetered even with something like unblockus/getflix. Not entirely sure how it works but you should authenticate at netflix with one IP and then the cdn with another.

    I am thinking of keeping my VPN and then have it set on my Apple TV to use the US version and keep my PS4 VPN free to run the AU version. I have unlimited data so it dose not bother me what I use.

    Forgive me if I have misunderstood the "negative" of this article as the title suggests.. but are we saying that we want to have our cake and eat it too?

    That the un-metered only works for the definitely, 100% legal, not breaking any terms and conditions (which is btw, in a very real but pedantic sense, illegal/criminal), way of watching Netflix is somehow a negative worth bringing to the table of discussion? It may be possible to switch, at will, between the geographically locked streams using a VPN or similar service but it's certainly not legal, using the logic above, so in fact that is the negative aspect here rather than the reverse.

    I acknowledge it is worth acknowledging and pointing out to people.. but why is this considered a negative?

    We've all been harping on and on about not having reasonably priced streaming content in Australia and now that we have it, it's not good enough... there's your negative.

      Yeah, I read this trying to figure out the negative. How would unmetered with those ISPs for Aus version be a detriment to those who are already using the US service with that ISP?

      Yeah I thought from the title there was going to be some bigger revelation than that, I assumed when they announced free data it would only be if you're using the local site. duh

      I reckon it was probably framed that way to get people to click the article.

      The negative being... they are still probably restricting content because God decided to put some water between us.

      Circumventing geo-blocking is definitely not illegal or criminal. It might be a breach of your contract with Netfix, for which they could cancel your account, but you shouldn't peddle disinformation about its alleged illegality.

        I won't bother to argue the point other than to say that breaching of contract is illegal. Civil yes but still illegal. Could netflix take legal action against you for doing it and win? Yes. Would they bother? Probably not. It doesn't make it not illegal though.

        Geo circumvention isn't illegal in and.of itself.

          Show us the law that says breaching a contract is illegal.

          Illegal by definition means you're breaking a law.. A contract is not law, therefore breaking a contract is not breaking the law. and therefore is not illegal.

            Contracts are binding at common law. The terms "unlawful" or "illegal" simply mean contrary to the law. I'm not sure what you mean when you ask "show us the law that says breaching a contract is illegal." If it weren't illegal to breach a contract then contracts would not be enforceable in the courts.

            Perhaps you equate the word "illegal" with "criminal offence." The two words do not mean the same thing, although many laypeople use the words in that way. In fact, the word is probably most commonly used in that way. But while what is criminal is illegal not all that is illegal is a crime. It's clearly not a crime to breach a contract, but it is unlawful. Criminal law is only a small (but very important) part of the law. When you study law, only a small part of your time is spent studying criminal law - most of it involves studying contract law, property law, constitutional law, administrative law, corporations law etc etc.

              Thanks for the better way of explaining it, that's exactly what I meant.

          As said by others, illegal means to break a law. Entering into a contract and then not following the conditions of that contract is not illegal.

          If Netflix wanted to take action, all they could do is end your service. They have no grounds for any legal action.

            Yes they do. They could sue you. Will they? No they won't. It won't be worth it. But if they did, they would win

              The comment to which I replied stated it was "illegal/criminal", which it is not. The penalty for breaching the T&C is whatever is clearly laid out in the T&C. They could not sue you for some unspecified amount or have you charged with a criminal offence because none has been committed.

      Breaking T&C's is _definitely not illegal or criminal_. All it means is that you have breached the agreement with the service provider, in which case they may chose to end your service. But no laws have been broken, so no criminal act has taken place.

    Great; now if iiNet could just fucking connect my internet already, then that'd be fantastic. Will definitely be keenly looking at Aus Netflix.

    My understanding is that netflix will limit the quality of what you are viewing based on the connection speed, so I would imagine another advantage of someone viewing the Australian site would be better quality video on average.

    I don't have NBN, how well will it " stream " anyway?

      I've got an ADSL connection running at about 10Mbps and get very good quality out of Netflix (US) to my Chromecast. So long as you aren't on a horrible connection, streaming will work just fine. The quicker your connection, the higher the quality will go - Netflix essentially dials down the quality if it detects a slow link and cranks it up if you have a better link. That way, there is a minimum amount of pause and judder.

      I get about 8MBit/s and it streams 1080P without a problem.

    I don’t expect that most existing US Netflix customers in Australia will decide to change plans solely to get unmetered access — they’ve been willingly chewing through data until now anyway.

    Well yes, I've been willingly chewing through my data allowance, and will continue to do so coz the Oz content ain't gonna be the same. My DNS tunneling provider works fine for me, they have a service called SmartDNS (http://overplay.net/?a_aid=OVRPLY), so I'm not budging thank you very much! :)

    Last edited 04/03/15 1:11 pm

    The other big issue with unmetered Netflix is that if you have a fixed wireless nbn connection you can't get it! Grrrr

    Why do I have to choose? I have an apple tv set to the us and will use it to keep getting Netflix from the us, I also have a fetch tv service which I will use to access Netflix in Australia. As Netflix Australia takes off I may discontinue my us account.
    Though I admit that in the interim that means I will be paying around $30 for tv services, I still think its better value than foxtel.
    I also believe Stan and presto are way behind as you can only use a computer or tablet to access and then need to stream to your tv, this is a pain compared to directly accessing these service by tv or existing device such as fetch or apple tv.

    i already have an US account, does anyone know how i can change the subscription region so it will charge me AUD instead of USD

      Stick with your US account. Will likely still work out cheaper, even after conversion, and you'll have a better range of content.

    I was also wondering what the 'one big problem' was exactly. I see the distinction, any consumers that don't won't be using VPN services either.

    Optus has Unlimited broadband for the same price as 200GB currently (if you sign a 2 year contract) - and that also includes Fetch TV. So those users could simply switch to unlimited

    Is it possible to view US Netflix through a Fetch TV box?? And would this be metered?

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