“You Can’t Block the Beacon”

Canadian tech company unlocks U.S. Netflix

By: Tom Rose, Staff Writer

Here you are, a month away from the end of the semester. Stranger Things won’t be back until Halloween, and you’ve already binged your way through Santa Clarita Diet (you have, haven’t you?), and now you find yourself endlessly scrolling through stuff you’ve already decided you don’t want to watch, trying to convince yourself that you could probably sit through Knocked Up again. Just as you’re about to finally open Word and take a crack at that paper, here come the wheels of industry to save you from yourself: enter TurboBeacon.

TurboBeacon is the brainchild of Canadian company TurboVPN, a company whose sole mission appears to be making sure Canadians (and the lucky members of a few select foreign nations) have access to streaming content which would otherwise be restricted due to geolocking. Geolocking, or geoblocking is, as the name suggests, that technological voodoo that stops a user of a given service from viewing content restricted for users outside of their area of access. The solution used to be fairly simple – open up your browser, select your favourite rerouting website et voilà – you’re watching season 5 of Weeds before it’s available on Canadian Netflix.

But the halcyon days of early New Media are gone, and more and more users of proxy or VPN services are finding themselves met with that buzzkill of an error screen: “It appears you are using a proxy,” says Netflix, insisting that you show them yours before they’ll return the favour. TurboBeacon has found a way around all that, says Taylor Campbell, General Manager of TurboVPN’s online service Turboflix. In an interview with the CBC, Campbell notes that the big reason they haven’t been blocked in the little over a year they’ve been offering the device is “due to the private and secure nature” of the technology they use. In other words, the company’s staying pretty tight-lipped about how the box actually works, with their website claiming that it merely “intercept[s] all outgoing Internet traffic and funnel[s] it to regions of the world with the best content selection”.

So what do we know, then? Well, the box itself is compact, somewhere between a deck of cards and a Macbook charger. The device can be purchased for just over $33 CAD, with the unblocking service clocking in at another $10 and change. Subscriptions to services such as Netflix and Amazon Instant are not included, so don’t forget to factor that in when considering making the switch. Once the box arrives in the mail (with free shipping, no less), you simply plug it into your Wi-Fi router. TurboBeacon creates its own Wi-Fi network, the feature which experts surmise helps it to work around those pesky VPN blocks the services throw at it – and all you have to do is connect to that network on the device you use to stream. And no, you’re not breaking any laws by using it. You’re technically breaking the terms of use for Netflix and many of the other services TurboBeacon supports, but from a legal standpoint it’s on the up and up.

Reviews from the service are fairly positive thus far, with the biggest complaint being slow loading. TurboVPN reps explain that since TurboBeacon was “designed to flow…traffic through your TurboBeacon and wireless router to…independent servers which then [send] the data back through those devices again”, internet speeds won’t necessarily always be consistent between your Wi-Fi network and the network created by TurboBeacon. The company warns against using more than one TurboBeacon at a time, and suggests that to switch devices for streaming it’s best to “disconnect your first device from the TurboBeacon” to maintain quality.

Yeah, it’s another gadget that needs a subscription. But before you give up and declare the ‘Internet of Things’ to be taken over by capitalism (it has been, by the way, that fight’s lost), there are two more considerations which make TurboBeacon so appealing. First, like Netflix, TurboBeacon offers a one-month trial with no strings attached. Don’t like it? Send it back to ‘em. No harm, no foul. And, perhaps more intriguingly, you can potentially earn money from using it.

TurboBeacon’s ‘Affiliates’ program offers users the chance to earn $20 for each unique one-month trial they drum up by providing participants with specific links to share with their friends. Since TurboBeacon boasts “amongst the highest conversion rates in the industry”, motivated and frugal users stand to make some serious dough – or at least enough for the service to pay for itself. Considering the ease and relatively good quality of free apps like Kodi, the Affiliate program stands to separate TurboBeacon from the rest of the pack. A smart move, considering the rise of similar devices such as Betterspot, a formidable adversary which estimates it will start shipping its first units in May of this year. What a time to be alive and in need of a distraction.