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The 7 Best Netflix VPNs – TechEye

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Ever since it first launched, Netflix has been the leading streaming service in the world. And while Netflix’ library is impressive, not every movie or TV show is available in every country. The reason for this is copyright law.

When Netflix buys the rights to a TV show or a movie, they buy the rights for a specific region. Sometimes, they can distribute the content everywhere in the world. For instance, this is the case with most original Netflix shows. But in other cases, different distributors buy the streaming rights for different countries. For example, Netflix may stream your favorite show in the United States, but not in the Australian market.

This is a good thing for content producers, and it’s also good for Netflix. Different regions and countries have different regulations. By negotiating different deals in different areas, both producers and distributors get a fair deal. Unfortunately, this can be inconvenient if you can’t get the content you want to watch.

One solution is to use a VPN. A VPN routes your internet traffic through a secondary server, called a proxy server. When Netflix sees your device, they won’t see it coming from your ISP. They’ll see a connection from the country your VPN server is based in. So if it’s a US server, Netflix will think you’re in the USA.

​At least, that’s how it works in theory. In practice, Netflix actively tries to block VPN connections. As a result, when you try to stream Netflix over most VPNs, you get an error code. It simply says: “Whoops, something went wrong. Streaming error. You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again.”

This can be disappointing, to say the least. Instead of having access to the TV show you wanted, you’re back in geoblocking land. Thankfully, there are a handful of services that are capable of getting around the Netflix VPN ban. We’ve put together a list of the best VPN providers for Netflix.

The 7 Best VPNs for Netflix (2020)

So, how did we choose the best Netflix VPNs? Simply put, we performed thousands of tests to find which VPN providers reliably unblock Netflix. In addition, we looked for the following criteria:

  • HD-capable Netflix streaming connection speeds
  • Good privacy and security features
  • Wide device compatibility
  • Good customer service
  • Fast, competent customer service
  • Good warranty coverage

Here’s a list of the 7 best Netflix VPNs. After that, we’ll also talk about VPNs to avoid, as well as how to set up a VPN for watching Netflix. We’ll also talk about how the Netflix VPN ban works, and how we tested our top VPN choices. Let’s take a closer look!

1. ExpressVPN

If you’re looking for the best Netflix VPN, bar none, ExpressVPN is at the top of the pack. It works in most countries, and unblocks the Netflix libraries for the US, UK, Japan, France, Canada, Australia, and Germany, among others. It also unblocks most other streaming services, so you’ve got a complete multi-functional VPN. It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can cancel your subscription if you don’t like it.

The most impressive feature we found in the course of our ExpressVPN review was a dedicated Netflix page. This allows you to easily select server locations to unblock Netflix in select areas. These servers do change from time to time, but their chat support is very friendly if you ever need a hand.

ExpressVPN will reliably unblock Netflix on every platform we tested, including iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux, Fire TV, and even some WiFi routers. With a single account, you can connect up to five devices simultaneously, so multiple people can stream throughout your house. You can even use ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer smart DNS proxy to unblock your game console or Apple TV. Regardless of your device, you’ll enjoy gorgeous 1080p picture quality with virtually zero buffering.

We found speeds suitable for HD streaming without buffering.

Pros:

  • Unblocks most major streaming services
  • Blazing fast speeds
  • ​Excellent privacy and security
  • Does not log user traffic
  • Friendly customer service

Cons:

  • A bit pricey
  • Configuration options are fairly basic

ExpressVPN

If you’re looking for the best Netflix VPN, bar none, ExpressVPN is at the top of the pack.


2. NordVPN

NordVPN is a solid choice if you’re not concerned with accessing a ton of different countries. It will unblock Netflix libraries for the US, UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands, which is a fairly limited scope, but still a ton of content. On the upside, you get excellent privacy and security and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Many NordVPN reviews focus on the limited content, but many forget to mention the security. They won’t log your IP address, and all connections are encrypted. In addition, you can also connect to BBC iPlayer and several other popular streaming services.

Pros:

  • Servers are optimized for Netflix
  • Supports up to 6 simultaneous connections
  • Does not log user traffic
  • All connections are encrypted
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • Somewhat limited content
  • Interface can be twitchy

NordVPN

NordVPN is a solid choice if you’re not concerned with accessing a ton of different countries.


3. Surfshark

Surfshark is an affordable, minimalist VPN service that unblocks Netflix in a limited number of countries. You can connect to servers in the US, Canada, France, or Japan. Not even the UK Netflix library is supported. That said, you get reliable service and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

You also get very fast connection speed regardless of your device, and you can connect on Windows, iOS, Android, and MacOS, so most devices will be able to connect. As an added bonus, you can take advantage of unlimited simultaneous connections and share your service with your friends and family.

Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Fast connection speeds
  • Secure connection

Cons:

Surfshark

Surfshark is an affordable, minimalist VPN service that unblocks Netflix in a limited number of countries.


4. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a no-nonsense VPN that unblocks Netflix in just a few seconds. On each server, you’ll see a list of which services it will unblock. If you see Netflix, click on the word “Netflix”, wait for it to connect, and you’re good to go. It will even open Netflix for you! If the server doesn’t work, you can give it a thumbs-down to report it. Don’t forget to leave a thumbs-up to good, fast servers, though. They’ll be easier for other users to find.

In addition to a simple interface and high speeds, CyberGhost also offers responsive customer support and a 45-day money-back guarantee that beats the industry average. You can run CyberGhost on Windows, iOS, Anrdoid, or MacOS. The only major downside is that it will only connect to American Netflix servers.

Pros:

  • Active user community
  • Fast connection speeds
  • Does not log user traffic
  • Affordable pricing

Cons:

  • Only connects to the American Netflix library

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a no-nonsense VPN that unblocks Netflix in just a few seconds.


5. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN allows you to access the Netflix libraries of 20 different countries, more than any other VPN on our list. This is all the more impressive considering that PrivateVPN is a young company, and only has about a hundred servers. When you log in, the servers with the best streaming service are all clearly labeled, which makes them easy to find even if you don’t have any experience with VPN apps.

PrivateVPN performed very well on our speed tests. Even if you’re taking advantage of all six simultaneous connections, you can watch your favorite shows in full HD without buffering or loss of quality. All of this comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee in the event of any problems.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally fast connections
  • Unblocks Netflix in 20 countries
  • Does not log customer traffic
  • Supports up to six simultaneous connections

Cons:

  • Small server network
  • Chat support only available during business hours

PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN allows you to access the Netflix libraries of 20 different countries, more than any other VPN on our list.


6. IPVanish

IPVanish didn’t start out as a Netflix VPN. In fact, their main selling point is the number of simultaneous connections they support. Up to 10 users can connect at the same time, so this is a great choice for whole-house privacy as well as unblocking your favorite streaming services.

That said, IPVanish did recently add several services for US and UK Netflix traffic. Whether they expand this to other countries is up in the air. But if you just want to access these two Netflix libraries, IPVanish will keep you entertained as well as keeping your connection secure.

Pros:

  • Supports up to 10 simultaneous connections
  • Very fast connection speeds

Cons:

  • Only unblocks US and UK Netflix

IPVanish

If you just want to access the US and UK Netflix libraries, IPVanish will keep you entertained as well as keeping your connection secure.


7. Hotspot Shield

If you’ve shopped for VPNs in the past, you’re probably aware that Hotspot Shield is not technically a “new” VPN. In fact, they’ve been around since 2005. But they were acquired by tech firm Pango in 2018, and have since added support for unblocking multiple Netflix libraries. They also support multiple other streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and ITV Hub.

This upgraded offering could still use some work. For instance, if you need to contact customer support, prepare for long hold times. But the price is right, and the 45-day money-back guarantee means there’s zero risk in giving Hotspot Shield a shot.

Pros:

  • Unblocks multiple Netflix libraries
  • Supports up to five simultaneous connections
  • Encrypted connections
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Lackluster customer support

Hotspot Shield

If you’ve shopped for VPNs in the past, you’re probably aware that Hotspot Shield is not technically a “new” VPN. In fact, they’ve been around since 2005.


Hit-or-Miss Netflix VPNs

Some VPNs will work with Netflix, but don’t make the cut for any number of reasons. Some don’t work consistently, or require you to frequently switch servers. Others don’t consistently offer enough download speed for Netflix streaming. Still others don’t offer an app to unblock Netflix on iPhone or Android devices, and even more have significant privacy issues.

So, which of these borderline services can be potentially useful? They didn’t make our top seven, but here’s a list:

  • AirVPN
  • Astrill
  • Avast SecureLine
  • Avira Phantom
  • BlackVPN
  • BulletVPN
  • CactusVPN
  • F-Secure Freedome
  • FrootVPN
  • Goose
  • Hide.me
  • Hide My Ass
  • Ironsocket
  • Keenow Unblocker
  • Le VPN
  • LiquidVPN
  • McAfee Safe Connect
  • Mullvad
  • Norton Wifi Privacy
  • Private Internet Access
  • Private Tunnel
  • ProXPN
  • ProtonVPN
  • PureVPN
  • SaferVPN
  • SlickVPN
  • Speedify
  • StrongVPN
  • Surfeasy
  • Torguard
  • VPN Area
  • VPN Tunnel
  • VPN Unlimited
  • VyprVPN
  • Windscribe
  • Zenmate
  • ibVPN


VPNs That Never Work With Netflix

A smaller number of VPNs should never be used for Netflix under any circumstances. Here’s a quick list of these VPNs, and why they should be avoided.

Blockless

Blockless was initially blocked when Netflix first introduced their VPN ban in 2016. At the time of this writing, they have not restored this capability.

Buffered

Buffered was originally able to evade Netflix’s ban. However, it has not been able to unblock Netflix on either the MacOS or Windows client since September of 2017. Last year, Buffered customer support stated that a fix was in the works, although there was no official release date or other information. For the time being, Buffered remains unable to stream Netflix traffic.

GetFlix

If any VPN service were going to unblock Netflix, you’d expect it to be GetFlix. After all, it’s in the name. Unfortunately, this cheap VPN service is no longer able to access Netflix. When GetFlix first launched, it was marketed specifically as a Netflix VPN. But for the time being, they remain unable to deliver your favorite Netflix shows.

HideIPVPN

HideIPVN used to be able to unblock Netflix. However, when Netflix banned VPNs in 2016, HideIPVN’s service was also banned. At the time of this writing, they have no plans to modify their service to support Netflix access.

Hola

Hola is a free VPN service, so it’s tempting to download. You don’t have to sign up for a one or two-year plan or hand over your credit card information. Unfortunately, Hola won’t unblock Netflix. Even worse, they have a record of using their users’ computers to distribute pornography, pirated movies, and even to hack websites. Stay away from Hola and use a more reliable VPN provider.

Opera VPN

Opera VPN is an easy-to-use proxy that’s built into the Opera browser. It offers excellent privacy and security, so it’s a great choice for professionals. Unfortunately, it won’t unblock Netflix streaming.

Overplay

When Netflix first banned VPNs, Overplay fought back admirably. Until the the fall of 2017, they intermittently supported Netflix. Unfortunately, they seem to have given up, and no longer advertise any support for Netflix streaming.

Tunnelbear

Tunnelbear does not unblock Netflix, nor does it claim to. This VPN service can help you get around geographic restrictions on various other services, such as YouTube. But for the time being, Tunnelbear is currently not capable of unblocking Netflix. They also don’t seem to have any plans to do so in the future.

Unblock-Us

Unblock-Us stopped supporting Netflix unblocking on July 5th, 2016. It can still intermittently work on certain devices, but the functionality is not worth your time or effort. Use another VPN service that offers reliable streaming.

Unlocator

Unlocator no longer works with Netflix, ever since July of 2016. Like Buffered, the company has claimed to be working on a fix. Also like Buffered, their VPN service does not unblock Netflix at the time of this writing. Until something changes, Unlocator is not an effective Netflix VPN provider.

Unotelly

Unotelly has not been able to evade Netflix geoblocking since the original ban in the first half of 2016. Like some other providers, they claim that they are working on a fix to unblock Netflix. But the streaming service has not worked via Unotelly since it was first banned.


How to Use a Netflix VPN to Change Your Country

Now that you’ve chosen your VPN, the next step is getting everything set up for streaming. Starting out with a Netflix VPN is surprisingly easy, and requires just four simple steps. Here’s how it’s done.

Sign up for Netflix

It might sound obvious, but you need to have a Netflix account in order to start streaming. You can create your account on virtually any device, in any country, and with any payment method. Most smart TVs come with the Netflix app pre-installed, which makes it easy to get started.

To create an account, first access the Netflix app or visit their website in your browser. Click the button that says “Join Free”, and you’ll have a few different options. The plans have different options and pricing, but all of them are free for the first month.

  • A Basic Netflix subscription is the most affordable options. However, it only allows you to stream in standard definition, which looks like pre-HD TV. It also limits you to streaming on a single screen at once. The Basic service is best if you’re watching on your smartphone, and if you’re only using Netflix by yourself.
  • A Standard Netflix subscription costs a few dollars more, but it allows you to stream on two screens at once. It also lets you stream in full HD, which is why it’s the most popular Netflix plan.
  • A Premium Netflix subscription is an ideal choice for large families, since it allows you to stream on up to four screens at once. In addition, it supports 4K streaming if your ISP connection can handle it.

Once you’ve chosen a plan, you’ll need to enter an email address, a password, and a payment method. You won’t be billed right now, but keep in mind that you will automatically be charged once your free month has ended. If you don’t want this to happen, you’ll need to cancel your account before the month is out. As long as you’re okay with this, complete the checkout process and log in with your browser or app.

Install Your VPN

Now that Netflix works, it’s time to install your VPN. Exactly how you do that will depend on which VPN you’re choosing and what device you’re using. Our top VPNs offer good mobile support as well as browser support. That said, it’s easiest to start out on a PC, Mac, or laptop, since changing location is typically simpler with this interface. Once you’ve confirmed that everything else is working smoothly, you can move over to your mobile device.

Once your VPN software is installed, launch the app and sign in. In most cases, the VPN will automatically connect to the fastest proxy server by default. This means you’ll probably end up on a server in your own country, since it’s geographically close. To browse the international Netflix library, simply choose a VPN server from the country you want to connect from. Exactly how you do this will depend on the VPN and device.

Once you’re done, you should be able to browse anything you want. You can watch U.S. Netflix from anywhere in the world, no matter where you want to watch American Netflix shows. Similarly, you can browse from any country to get access to that own country’s own unique Netflix library.

Verify Your VPN Connection

In most cases, that’s all you should need to do to to browse Netflix from anywhere in the world. However, just for security purposes, you might want to ensure that your VPN connection is working as expected. To do this, you’ll want to navigate to ipleak.net, or any other service that will run an IP address lookup on your connection.

When it returns the results, the service will tell you what country you’re in based on your IP address. If your VPN connection is secure, this will be the country the VPN proxy server is located in. If the results are showing your location instead, you’ve experienced an IP address leak, and could potentially be at risk. This shouldn’t be an issue with any of our top seven VPN providers, but it’s been an issue with some companies.

Enjoy the Show!

Now that everything is set up, all you have to do is enjoy your Netflix experience. Open your browser and browse their library for your favorite shows. If you don’t like what you see, you can simply use your VPN to switch to a different country.

Keep in mind that your new connection might also cause some shows to disappear from your catalog. For example, if you’re located in the US and connect to a proxy server in the UK, you’ll be able to watch Doctor Who, which is a UK exclusive. On the other hand, you won’t be able to watch The Queen, the series about Queen Elizabeth II which is ironically a US exclusive. To watch The Queen, you’d need to connect to a US proxy server instead.

Change Servers if Necessary

Assuming everything is working properly, this should be all you need to do. Now you’re ready to watch TV without any interruptions. That said, even on the most reliable VPN service, you might occasionally run into the dreaded “Whoops” message. This means that Netflix has detected that your IP address is on a VPN server. This can happen even on good services, for reasons we’ll talk about in a minute.

The good news is that a well-run VPN provider has multiple server nodes in each country. First, close your Netflix app. Next, open your VPN app and look at the list of servers in the country you want to connect to. Choose a different server, and wait for the connection to resolve. Next, reopen Netflix and see if your show plays. If needed, you can switch servers multiple times.

Some devices don’t offer native support for VPNs. These include most smart TVs and sticks like the Roku. There are solutions for this in the FAQ below. If you’d rather not mess with any of those options, the easiest route is simply to connect to Netflix from a PC, Mac, or laptop browser. This makes it easy to ensure your IP address does not get detected.


Netflix VPN FAQs

Why is Netflix content different in different countries?

The reason Netflix content is different between different countries has to do with copyright law. Because copyright law is different in Canada and Australia, for instance, streaming rights are handled differently in those territories. It just makes sense for streaming services to negotiate for rights in different areas separately.

Why does Netflix block most VPNs?

VPNs allow customers to bypass Netflix’ geographic restrictions on their content. If Netflix does not take measures to ensure that people can’t watch content from outside their territory, they could expose themselves to legal risk. They could be sued by content creators, or by other streaming services who are losing customers. They could even damage their relationships with producers and lose access to content altogether. For all of these reasons, it’s in Netflix’ interest to block VPN traffic.

Is it wrong to use a VPN to stream Netflix?

To begin with, let’s be clear: the TechEye team is made up of tech enthusiasts, not professional ethicists. We’re not your mom, and we’re not the police. That said, let’s look at what a VPN is. It’s a tool that’s designed primarily for privacy, not for watching TV shows. After all, VPNs have been around a lot longer than Netflix has.

Many people use VPNs every day, and we recommend that you do too. For one thing, they help you maintain some level of privacy from advertisers and other people who want to know your location. In addition, it protects you from many types of snooping, including from hackers on unsecured public WiFi networks. In certain countries with strict censorship laws, it can even be impossible to access most of the web without a VPN.

So, suppose you’re using a VPN, which you have every right to do, and which you should probably be doing anyway. Why should you not be allowed to connect to Netflix?

The VPN ban is a blunt tool, and it makes sense that Netflix did what they needed to do to keep their content creators happy. But it’s not wrong to use a VPN for Netflix streaming.

Which countries will these VPNs work in?

In theory, these VPN services will unblock the US Netflix library in any country. They will also work for most other countries’ libraries as well. The only exceptions are countries where VPNs are blocked by a national firewall, most notably China. In this case, you’ll need to choose a VPN that’s capable of connecting from one of those countries.

In the rest of the world, these VPNs will work just fine, provided you have fast enough internet access. They’ve been tested in several countries, and all of them will unblock US Netflix in the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • ​Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • ​Ireland
  • ​Israel
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • UK

Our top seven VPN providers should work in most other countries as well. These are just the ones where we know for sure that they’ve been tested.

Will every VPN unblock Netflix in every country?

The best VPN services will unblock Netflix in most countries. We’ve focused specifically on VPNs that reliably unblock the US Netflix library, since that’s the largest library and the one with the most exclusive offerings. That said, most of these VPNs will work for most other countries as well.

Does unblocking the Netflix app work the same as unblocking Netflix in a web browser?

No. When you access Netflix from a web browser like Chrome or Firefox, your computer’s WiFi or Ethernet card handles all of the traffic. If you’re connected to the VPN, everything will go to the VPN. In their Android and iOS devices, Netflix has installed software that attempts to override the device’s DNS settings.

This means that instead of connecting to the VPN, the app will create its own separate connection through the nearest public DNS server. In other words, even if you have a working VPN connection, Netflix will still know where you are. All seven of our best VPN choices will prevent this from happening, but you might have issues with other VPN providers.

I like to watch Netflix on my console or smart TV, and they don’t support a VPN. How do I unblock those devices?

If you want to watch another country’s Netflix library on a Smart TV, Roku, or game console, you won’t be able to install a VPN app on your device. Seems like you’re out of luck, right? Depending on your router, you might not be. Many routers allow you to flash the firmware to install special router-based VPNs like DD-WRT or TomatoUSB.

Of course, it’s understandable if you’re uncomfortable installing a VPN on your WiFi router. In that case, you can always buy a pre-configured VPN router from ExpressVPN or another reputable manufacturer. Alternatively, you can use a laptop as a virtual router and enable your VPN on that. This works on Mac or Windows, and only takes a few minutes to set up.

That said, configuring a virtual router can be a pain. An easier alternative is simply to cast your Netflix shows from Chromecast, Apple TV, or another screen casting app. Simply run the VPN app on the device you’re casting from, and you’re ready to go.

Will a smart DNS proxy unblock Netflix?

A smart DNS proxy performs a similar function to a VPN, but it works a little bit differently. Instead of redirecting all your traffic through a proxy server, a smart DNS proxy instead looks for specific requests, and sends only those requests through the proxy. So, for example, you could watch a movie on the UK Netflix servers via a proxy server and simultaneously Google the leading actress via an ordinary DNS server.

In the weeks and months following Netflix’ original DNS ban, smart DNS proxies like Unblock-US, Unlocator, Overplay, and Unotelly became hugely popular. They were an easy VPN alternative, and many Netflix customers switched over during this time period. This only lasted for a few months until Netflix caught on to it, and they ultimately banned most smart DNS proxy servers.

It’s important to note that there are still a few smart DNS proxies that will unblock Netflix traffic. However, the only one that works 24/7 is MediaStreamer, a service offered by ExpressVPN. It comes free with your ExpressVPN subscription, and is actually the default ExpressVPN connection type. Other than that, steer clear of smart DNS proxies for Netflix streaming.

Is it legal to use a VPN for Netflix?

Yes. There is currently no law against accessing Netflix via a VPN connection. That said, it is most certainly against Netflix’ Terms of Service to use a VPN to access another country’s Netflix library. Specifically, the Terms of Service state:

“You may view Netflix content primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such content. The content that may be available to watch will vary by geographic location and will change from time to time.”

From the start of the ban to the time of this writing, Netflix has consistently blocked most VPN servers from their service. However, in all that time, we have not seen a single story of a Netflix customer being banned or otherwise penalized for using a VPN. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll get the “Whoops” error and need to switch servers.


How the Netflix VPN Ban Works

So, how does Netflix ban VPNs to begin with? To begin with, they banned known VPN server IP addresses. However, there are simple workarounds to this type of banning, and it was easily circumvented by NordVPN, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, LiquidVPN, Buffered, and others. By changing IP addresses on a regular basis, these services were able to ensure that Netflix couldn’t simply keep a library of known VPN IP addresses. And if Netflix does block a particular server, the block will only be effective until the server generates a new IP.

Since then, Netflix has needed to get smarter. One of the ways they’ve done this is to focus on connections coming from data centers instead of residences. This has helped to squeeze out larger players, since it’s difficult to run a larger VPN service without a large data center. On the flip side, Netflix has also targeted connections that don’t use public DNS servers, and by frequently changing their geolocation URLs. This has forced smaller services to invest in larger-scale resources for geolocation, pushing many of them out of the market.

Given all this activity, how has Netflix not managed to block all VPN traffic by now? In a recent interview, Buffer CEO Jordan Fried speculated that Netflix is intentionally allowing some VPNs to keep working.

His reasoning is that if Netflix wanted to, they could easily block all traffic from VPNs. All they would have to do is tie their customers’ viewing library to their billing address. That way, it wouldn’t matter where users were connecting from. But licensing is based on where content is actually viewed, not where it’s being paid for. In other words, if Netflix were ever sued by a producer or rival service, they could simply argue that they were doing the best they can.

In fact, it’s not just Netflix that’s handling VPNs in this fashion. HBO Now, Hulu/Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming services are all implementing similar VPN bans. These bans all work slightly differently, so a VPN provider that works on one service may not work on another. Still, most of them should work with most of the VPNs on our list.

They will all work with ExpressVPN, which is another reason it’s our top pick for best Netflix VPN.

ExpressVPN

If you’re looking for the best Netflix VPN, bar none, ExpressVPN is at the top of the pack.




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California’s net neutrality law dodges Big Telecom bullet • The Register

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The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court’s refusal to block California’s net neutrality law (SB 822), affirming that state laws can regulate internet connectivity where federal law has gone silent.

The decision is a blow to the large internet service providers that challenged California’s regulations, which prohibit network practices that discriminate against lawful applications and online activities. SB 822, for example, forbids “zero-rating” programs that exempt favored services from customer data allotments, paid prioritization, and blocking or degrading service.

In 2017, under the leadership of then-chairman Ajit Pai, the US Federal Communications Commission tossed out America’s net neutrality rules, to the delight of the internet service providers that had to comply. Then in 2018, the FCC issued an order that redefined broadband internet services, treating them as “information services” under Title I of the Communications Act instead of more regulated “telecommunications services” under Title II of the Communications Act.

California lawmaker Scott Wiener (D) crafted SB 822 to implement the nixed 2015 Open Internet Order on a state level, in an effort to fill the vacuum left by the FCC’s abdication. SB 822, the “California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018,” was signed into law in September 2018 and promptly challenged.

In October 2018, a group of cable and telecom trade associations sued California to prevent SB 822 from being enforced. In February, 2021, Judge John Mendez of the United States District Court for Eastern California declined to grant the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to block the law. 

So the trade groups took their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has now rejected their arguments. While federal laws can preempt state laws, the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband services has moved those services outside its authority and opened a gap that state regulators are now free to fill.

“We conclude the district court correctly denied the preliminary injunction,” the appellate ruling [PDF] says. “This is because only the invocation of federal regulatory authority can preempt state regulatory authority.

The FCC no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services

“As the D.C. Circuit held in Mozilla, by classifying broadband internet services as information services, the FCC no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services. The agency, therefore, cannot preempt state action, like SB 822, that protects net neutrality.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supported California in an amicus brief, celebrated the decision in a statement emailed to The Register.

“EFF is pleased that the Ninth Circuit has refused to bar enforcement of California’s pioneering net neutrality rules, recognizing a very simple principle: the federal government can’t simultaneously refuse to protect net neutrality and prevent anyone else from filling the gap,” a spokesperson said.

“Californians can breathe a sigh of relief that their state will be able to do its part to ensure fair access to the internet for all, at a time when we most need it.”

There’s still the possibility that the plaintiffs – ACA Connects, CTIA, NCTA and USTelecom – could appeal to the US Supreme Court.

In an emailed statement, the organizations told us, “We’re disappointed and will review our options. Once again, a piecemeal approach to this issue is untenable and Congress should codify national rules for an open Internet once and for all.” ®

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RCSI scientists find potential treatment for secondary breast cancer

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An existing drug called PARP inhibitor can be used to exploit a vulnerability in the way breast cancer cells repair their DNA, preventing spread to the brain.

For a long time, there have been limited treatment options for patients with breast cancer that has spread to the brain, sometimes leaving them with just months to live. But scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) have found a potential treatment using existing drugs.

By tracking the development of tumours from diagnosis to their spread to the brain, a team of researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre found a previously unknown vulnerability in the way the tumours repair their DNA.

An existing kind of drug known as a PARP inhibitor, often used to treat heritable cancers, can prevent cancer cells from repairing their DNA because of this vulnerability, culminating in the cells dying and the patient being rid of the cancer.

Prof Leonie Young, principal investigator of the RCSI study, said that breast cancer research focused on expanding treatment options for patients whose disease has spread to the brain is urgently needed to save the lives of those living with the disease.

“Our study represents an important development in getting one step closer to a potential treatment for patients with this devastating complication of breast cancer,” she said of the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Deaths caused by breast cancer are often a result of treatment relapses which lead to tumours spreading to other parts of the body, a condition known as secondary or metastatic breast cancer. This kind of cancer is particularly aggressive and lethal when it spreads to the brain.

The study was funded by Breast Cancer Ireland with support from Breast Cancer Now and Science Foundation Ireland.

It was carried out as an international collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Pittsburgh in the US. Apart from Prof Young, the other RCSI researchers were Dr Nicola Cosgrove, Dr Damir Varešlija and Prof Arnold Hill.

“By uncovering these new vulnerabilities in DNA pathways in brain metastasis, our research opens up the possibility of novel treatment strategies for patients who previously had limited targeted therapy options”, said Dr Varešlija.

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Surface Duo 2 review: Microsoft’s dual-screen Android needs work | Microsoft

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Microsoft’s second attempt at its interesting dual-screen Android smartphone corrects some mistakes of the original, but falls short of a revolution due to a series of oddities created by its physical laptop-like form.

Looking more like a tiny convertible computer than a phone, the Surface Duo 2 starts at £1,349 ($1,499/A$2,319), a lot for a regular smartphone but slightly cheaper than folding-screen rivals.

It opens like a book, with each half just 5.5mm thick, and a hinge that allows it to fold all the way over.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
There is no screen on the outside, but the time and some basic alerts for SMS and calls can be shown down the spine of the hinge. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Inside are a pair of 90Hz OLED screens each measuring 5.8in on the diagonal. They can be used on their own or combined as one display measuring 8.3in – a similar size to an iPad mini. Both screens are covered in traditional scratch-resistant smartphone glass and have large, old-fashioned bezels top and bottom.

Having two separate displays rather than one that folds in half creates a major drawback: a gap in the middle of the screen big enough that you can see through it, which is much harder to ignore than the crease in the middle of a flexible display as found on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The gap between the screens sits right in the middle of the combined display, which makes full-screen reading, scrolling and watching video awkward. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

You can use two different apps at the same time on the two screens. The theory is sound, but I found few pairings were useful beyond simple messaging apps and a browser. More useful was using one screen for a note-taking app and the other for a full keyboard like a mini laptop.

Some apps spanned across both displays, like Outlook, can put different information on each screen, such as your inbox on one side and an open message on the other. Some games, including Asphalt 9 and Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass streaming service, put controls on one screen and the action on the other. But there are very few apps and games optimised for this setup.

microsoft surface duo 2 review
The two screens can be folded into various configurations, including just a single display, both combined into one large display, propped up like a tent or open like a mini laptop. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Specifications

  • Screens: two 5.8in AMOLED 90Hz displays

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

  • RAM: 8GB of RAM

  • Storage: 128, 256 or 512GB

  • Operating system: Android 11

  • Cameras: 12MP wide, 16MP ultra-wide, 12MP 2x telephoto; 12MP selfie

  • Connectivity: 5G, USB-C, wifi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5.1 and location

  • Water resistance: IPX1 (dripping water)

  • Dimensions closed: 145.2 x 92.1 x 11.0mm

  • Dimensions open: 145.2 x 184.5 x 5.5mm

  • Weight: 284g

2021’s top Android chip

microsoft surface duo 2 review
It takes two hours 15 minutes to fully charge the Duo 2 hitting 50% in 45 minutes, using a 45W USB-C charger (not included), which is pretty slow compared to rivals. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Duo 2 has last year’s top Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip with 8GB of RAM, matching the performance of top-flight Android smartphones from 2021 and capable of running two apps running side-by-side without slowdown.

Battery life is more variable than a traditional phone. It lasts about 32 hours between charges, with both screens used for about four hours with a variety of messaging, browsing and work apps. It lasts about a third longer if you mostly use only one screen. That’s a considerably shorter battery life than a regular smartphone and behind the Z Fold 3.

Sustainability

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The camera sticks quite far out of the glass back stopping it from sitting flat on a desk. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Microsoft does not provide an expected lifespan for the Duo 2’s battery; those in similar devices typically maintain at least 80% of their original capacity for in excess of 500 full charge cycles. Microsoft charges an out-of-warranty service fee of £593.94 to repair devices and £568.44 to replace the battery. The previous generation Surface Duo scored only two out of 10 on iFixit’s repairability scale.

The phone contains no recycled materials, but Microsoft operates recycling schemes for old devices, publishes a company-wide sustainability report and a breakdown of each product’s environmental impact.

Android 11

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The single screen mode is hard to use one-handed and most Android apps and websites are designed for longer screens, not short and fat ones, so you end up having to do a lot more scrolling than you would on a regular phone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Duo 2 runs Android 11 – not the latest Android 12 – and generally behaves like a standard Android smartphone or tablet with a few small additions that make it easier to use each screen separately. One of the best is the ability to drag the gesture bar at the bottom of an app to move it between screens or to drop it on to the gap between the screens to span it across both displays.

The software can be a bit unpredictable at times, such as opening the keyboard or text box of an app on another screen or hiding a second app from the screen when you try to type. But it is generally a fast and responsive experience given how unusual the device is.

The Duo 2 will receive three years of software updates from release, including monthly security patches, which is disappointingly at least a year short of what rivals, including Samsung and Apple, offer. Microsoft’s last planned update for the Duo 2 will be 21 October 2024.

Camera

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
Because the camera is on the back of the device, it would be blocked if you fold one of the screens over, meaning you have to shoot photos with both screens open – which is unwieldy. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Duo 2 has a triple camera on the back and a 12-megapixel selfie camera above the right-hand screen.

The rear main 12MP camera and 2x telephoto cameras are good, capable of producing detailed shots in a range of lighting conditions. The 16MP ultra-wide camera is reasonable, but a bit soft on detail and struggles with challenging scenes. The camera app has most of the features you’d expect, such as portrait mode, night mode and slow-mo video, and can shoot regular video at up to 4K at 60 frames a second.

The 12MP selfie camera is capable of shooting detailed photos even in middling light, and has access to the dedicated night mode when it gets dark.

Overall, the camera system on the Duo 2 is solid, but it can’t hold a candle to the best in the business.

Observations

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The camera lump on the back stops the device folding fully flat, creating a wedge shape when using one screen only. The shiny power button is also a fingerprint scanner, which was fairly fast and reliable. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • The Duo 2 supports Microsoft’s Slim Pen stylus, which can be magnetically stored and charged on the back of the device when not in use.

  • The stereo speakers are decently loud but a bit tinny, fine for watching YouTube videos.

  • The width of the device makes it a challenge to fit into smaller pockets.

Price

The Surface Duo 2 costs £1,349 ($1,499/A$2,319) with 128GB, £1,429 ($1,599/A$2,469) with 256GB or £1,589 ($1,799/A$2,769) with 512GB of storage.

For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 costs £1,599 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 costs £949.

Verdict

The Surface Duo 2 is an improvement on its predecessor, but is still a very odd proposition that’s neither a good phone nor a good tablet.

The individual screens are short and stout, forcing lots of scrolling in apps when using it like a phone and making one-handed use very difficult. The gap at the hinge makes combining them into one big tablet screen awkward too.

Using two apps side-by-side works well, but few combinations proved useful or faster than just quick switching between two apps on one screen on a normal phone. There is more potential in apps like Outlook that provide a multi-pane view, but few apps or games are optimised for the dual-screen system.

Microsoft is only offering a disappointing three years of software and security updates from release for the Duo 2, too, losing it a star.

It is good to see Microsoft trying something different. But ultimately the Duo 2’s two screens are just not yet as good or useful as either a single phone screen or a bigger folding screen, making it an expensive halfway house.

Pros: two screens, two apps side-by-side, multiple modes, top performance, hardened glass screens, decent camera, head-turning design.

Cons: gap between screens, few optimised apps, average battery life, bulky camera lump, chunky in pocket, hard to use one-handed, no real water resistance, only three years of software updates from release.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 review
The outside of the device is smooth glass front and back with quality-feeling plastic edges and a metal hinge. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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