Sports fanatics know how fun watching the game with their friends can be, but it isn’t always possible. Whether you’re on a business trip, taking a vacation, or anything in between, sports programming may not be available in your current location. A lot of sports fans have had the brilliant idea to simply turn to the Internet to stream the games live, but trying to stream live games produced a nasty surprise.
Sports coverage is a big business, and most of the major sporting leagues have imposed online blackouts that bar your from seeing the game live. Each league has different rules regarding which locations can view the blacked out game, though most will post the game content within 24 hours after it is finished. Also, each blackout implementation uses some rather clever data tools in an attempt to verify your physical location to determine whether or not you can stream the game live.
Most of them use IP related data, since IP addresses are leased on a geographic basis. By examining the IP address of the incoming connection request, websites can determine where your are located. However, some censorship and blackout tools dig deeper into your mobile devices to make a determination, so much that it’s starts to feel pretty invasive. Most mobile devices have GPS settings and record telemetry data that marks where your device is located.
At any rate, there’s good news: you can use a VPN tunnel to circumvent blackout restrictions. However, evading this form of censorship is a little trickier than simply trying to access a blocked website in a foreign country. It’s a little finicky, buy you’ll need to make sure you connect to a VPN server in the city of the teams’ your trying to watch online.
For instance, if wanted to watch a Kansas City Chiefs or Royals game that had been blacked out, I would need to connect to a server hosted in Kansas City (or the opposing team’s location, depending on where they are playing). So, naturally, you will want to make sure that your VPN provider has ample servers concentrated in your home country. This can be a little tricky, because a lot of VPN services only host servers in 1-2 locations per country.
By spreading out their servers around the globe, they hope to appeal to more customers. But most VPN services will post all of their current server locations on their websites, so it’s advisable to do your research before you sign up. For instance, if you’re a baseball fanatic and follow 5 separate teams, you’d want to see if those teams’ cities are listed in your providers’ list of servers.
Which Protocol Is Best?
If you simply want to stream a live game to circumvent blackout restrictions, you probably don’t care if that data were to be intercepted and read by a third party. If that’s the case, then you don’t need to necessarily use the strongest encryption option at your disposal.
You see, VPN tunnels add overhead to any Internet connection. Because of processing, memory, and latency overhead, you might find that the game you’re streaming is a little choppy. If so, you may want to try using a PPTP connection. PPTP is one of the fastest VPN options available, though you should know that it has some security flaws.
It can actually be cracked rather easily in as little as a day, so make sure you don’t accidentally send any personal or sensitive data throught the VPN connection as you’re streaming the live game. Also, I’d recommend simply trying OpenVPN or an L2TP connection first. Chances are that you won’t have any trouble streaming the game using these protocols, so why use an inferior protocol like PPTP? As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Furthermore, remember that most VPN providers are going to locate their servers within the most popular cities. The following providers have better than average coverage in the United States, too. With that understanding, let’s take a look at the best VPNs for sports.
ExpressVPN has US servers located in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Miami, Tampa, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, and Atlanta. Having 15 different server locations in one country is rarer than you might think, and they have a solid well-rounded service as well. With a 1-year subscription, the monthly cost is only $8.32, and they provide a generously lengthy 30-day money back guarantee as well.
If you need connections outside of the US, they can accomdate you with servers in 87 different countries. In addition, ExpressVPN permits up to 3 simultaneous connections per account, and offers VPN tunnels using PPTP, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, and OpenVPN.
IPVanish has chosen to strategically place their US servers in Miami, New York, Dallas, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Furthermore, they are a tad bit cheaper than ExpressVPN, and you can get their VPN tunnel service for as little as $6.49 per month. Server connections come in several varieties including PPTP, L2TP, IPSec, OpenVPN, and IKEv2.
However, I like how they permit up to 5 simultaneous connections per account, which is 2 more than ExpressVPN. Other notable features of their service include P2P and Bit Torrent downloads, a massive bank of 40,000 shared IP addresses, a 7-day money back guarantee, and servers in 60 countries around the world.
VyprVPN operates US-based servers in Miami, New York, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington D.C. If you want to try them before you buy them, I’d recommend taking advantage of the completely free version of their service. However, the Pro version of their service only costs $6.25 per month, though it only allows up to 2 simultaneous connections.
They do allow P2P and Bit Torrent downloads, which complements their extra features such as a VPN kill-switch and the split tunneling option. Lastly, note that VyprVPN offers connections in 50 countries around the world.
PIA VPN isn’t exceptionally clear about where all of their servers are located. This makes me think that they could be using some type of load-balancing technology to send users to the least burdened servers in select location (though that is only speculation). In the US, they have servers in California, ‘East,’ ‘West,’ ‘Midwest,’ Chicago, Texas, Florida, Seattle, and Silicon Valley.
They too allow up to 5 simultaneous connections per account, and they’re one of the cheapest providers on the market. An annual subscription makes the monthly cost plummet to a mere $3.33. And they allow P2P and Bit Torrent traffic on most of their servers. PIA VPN doesn’t have a free trial, though they do have a 7-day money back guarantee. Last but not least, note that PIA has servers in 26 countries.
Our last pick for the best VPNs for sports is TorGuard. They have 8 different server locations in the United States, including Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. But they’re actually based out of Panama, so you don’t need to worry about trouble with the NSA. Naturally, their VPN tunnels will interface well with the Tor service, too.
They cost as little as $5.00 per month, and operate servers in 59 countries total. There are a ton of great features with their service, too, including a stealth VPN service to bypass firewall inspection, DNS leak protection, 5 simultaneous connections per account, and ad blocking features.
If you live in an area where it’s extremely unlikely any VPN service provider is going to host a server, there is one last option at your disposal. You can simply look for a proxy service that hosts a server in that area. It will certainly take some hunting around on Google to find a good proxy server in that area, though.
And furthermore, proxy services can be a bit dangerous. They don’t provide any encryption, and some of them could be hosted by a nefarious stranger who wants to tap in to your data. Just make sure everything is on the up-and-up before sending data through a questionable or sketchy proxy service – there are many legitimate and reliable services out there (some are free, some are not). Personally, I’d always use a VPN tunnel if I had the option.