Tech, Now + Beyond

Why can’t my country chill like everyone else, Netflix?

Netflix is centuries too late if it thinks Caribbean people speak Spanish. Also, cybersecurity is a thing that's important.

I’ve got a bone to pick with everyone’s favorite movie streaming service.

In January, news broke that Netflix was going to clamp down on proxy and virtual private network services (known as VPNs) to fill loopholes in country-based viewing restrictions. Apart from being important cybersecurity tools, VPNs enable users to access Netflix from different geographical regions, which is how Netflix segregates its audience.

It started off in Australia. Netflix users who use VPNs or change DNS settings were affected, with more and more finding themselves locked out as the days passed. Despite having other services like U Flix that can bypass geoblocking so users can access Netflix,  Uflix  was anticipating  increasing numbers of Australian-only Netflix access.

For some, the ability to watch a documentary after coming home from work hinges on trial and error. Hopeful that the blocks wouldn’t last long and that there would be another way to evade geoblockers, many Australians found themselves testing geoblocking service after geoblocking service to gain access to Netflix’s U.S. library.

The crackdown didn’t stay in Australia. Soon Netflix was instructing users in the U.K. to turn off their unblocker for continued access, too. This prompted a kickback from those concerned with web security, particularly from those on vulnerable WiFi networks at hotels and airports, as users could be more susceptible to online attacks or threats to steal their private information if they weren’t using VPNs.

It looks like Netflix wants its users to choose between online privacy, security and Netflix. There’s a very real threat of being hacked without having a VPN, especially if you have WiFi access in a public place and are able to stream Netflix from multiple devices. Some users have already stated that Netflix will lose a customer if they’re forced to choose.

Most of this is done to abide by copyrights and content licensing. And, as frustrating as it may be, I get that. But there’s another consequence of geo-based Netflix libraries that I can’t understand.

My more personal issue is with the type of content that such libraries provide — specifically, the language they’re provided in. I live in the Caribbean. And though many territories in the Caribbean’s early colonial history were ruled by Spain, that’s not the case anymore. Most of the Caribbean speaks English, and the few islands that don’t speak French. Only three countries, one of which is a US territory, Puerto Rico, speak Spanish.

So why then, in my Netflix library, are movies and TV shows in Spanish?

The Caribbean is predominantly English-speaking. Though we are in close proximity to South and Central America, we are zoned into Latin America. Sure, that can work for trade relations to foster strong economic relationships, but none of that involves you, Netflix.

So when other users have access to all seasons of Gilmore Girls, we have none. We have access to one season of Criminal Minds, when it’s been running for a full eleven. And no, I don’t want to watch Betty La Fea.

“We have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere,” Netflix’s VP of content delivery architecture David Fullagar saidBut until then it’s the needs of a few outweighing the needs of many. And I’ll guess be working on my Spanish.