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Using BBC IPlayer from Abroad

December 10, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

OK, a bit of a long one, this:

I’m currently in South Africa, and hankering for some UK TV.

Now, BBC iPlayer, Channel 4’s 4OD, etc. all check your IP address and only grant you access if you’re in the UK. There are workarounds for this: you can use a Proxy Server, that directs all your web traffic through a UK-based server, so that you appear to be in the UK. Easiest to implement, but any decent proxy server will cost you a fair bit for the privilege of redirecting all your traffic.

You can also use the excellent OnSpeed, which is also based in the UK, and at £24.99/year, cheaper than the other BBC iPlayer busters. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work, such as where I am now (my hotel seems to block OnSpeed’s ports).
Or.. you can try Plan C, which is what I did.

I have my Home PC in the UK on all the time, sharing media, recording TV for me, etc. I also run an SSH server on it (Bitvise’s excellent WinSSHD) – which allows me to tunnel any traffic I want to privately to my home network. Also – using the Tunnelier SSH client, I can add new tunnels to this whenever I want, at my client end (ie. without touching the server).

So: a quick visit to ccProxy’s web site, where I downloaded a quick and simple demo version of ccProxy – free for light use. I then installed this remotely at my UK home server… giving me my very own private proxy server. I told it to listen on, say, port 8080, disabled anything other than HTTP, and also set it to accept external connections, in the Advanced Settings (otherwise it’ll block you).

I then created a new tunnel from port 8080 on my local laptop, to 8080 on the home server.

Finally – I configured IE’s proxy settings to tell it to use as a proxy.

So – fire it all off, and…. IE tries to direct my web traffic to my local port 8080. Tunnelier intercepts this, and fires it down the SSH tunnel to my home server, where the traffic emerges, and then finds my ccProxy server – which finally fires the request over to the BBC iPlayer site. iPlayer, happy to see this request from a UK address, then gives me access to the content.


Now… I know what you’re thinking. This means the hundreds of Megabytes I watch or download also travels this tortuous path, and overwhelms my home broadband connection. Right?

Well, no.

If you watch the streaming media, then yes, it will do this. But if you choose to Download the episodes… then it uses their download manager, which is a Bittorrent client. It receives the details from the BBC site, but then contacts your local peers directly to download the actual video…

…at which point, you’re not talking to the BBC any more, so there’s no need to look like you’re in the UK. So: pause the download, kill the SSH and remote connection, and then restart the download. iPlayer downloader now continues downloading direct from the clients, who couldn’t care two hoots where you are. You can collect the rest of the program at your local broadband speeds.

Of course… if you find a free proxy that works just well enough to start the initial torrent, then you can do that too – no need for all this private proxy/SSH tunnelling faff. But – this was quick and simple, and I maintain complete control over the traffic and where I send it.

It’s working for BBC. 4OD also works fine like this, although it needs to open IE even just to view the downloads, so you’ll need to make sure IE is working OK.

  1. October 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    wow thats a lot to do!! I moved to Florida 2 months ago and am dying to watch Waterloo Road, The Gadget Show, New Tricks etc…
    I have heard that you can change your IP address in Mozilla’s Firefox?

  2. craig charles
    September 9, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Yes down here you need a VPN connection to access iplayer and itv ive been using http://www.laptoptelly.com, spead is ok.

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