Can you access Netflix with Private Internet Access (PIA)?
There are many reasons to use a VPN to protect your privacy online, and one of those which as increasing importance is streaming entertainment. With Netflix upping the level of their security, it’s getting increasingly more difficult for VPNs to access Netflix among other streaming media services. Our research indicates that PIA is simply not reliable when it comes to accessing Netflix unfortunately.
How Does a VPN like PIA Work?
When you surf the internet directly through your ISP, your data is completely unprotected. Not only does your internet service provider harvest and sell your data, but anyone who can monitor your connection can also harvest your data. This includes the government, police, criminals, and even just companies who want to target you with ads.
A VPN takes your raw internet connection from your ISP and routes it through a virtual server elsewhere. This prevents anything you do online from being traced back to your personally identifiable data. This includes everything from downloads to streaming services like Netflix.
Because internet spying is big business, using a VPN is just good sense. They are not, however, all created equal, and we will show you why.
Why Does Netflix Ban VPNs in the First Place?
So Netflix is separated into regions – there’s a UK Netflix, a US one, and so on and so forth across the globe. They’re separated into regions for 2 main reasons:
- Certain media is banned in certain countries for one reason or another, typically having to do with the social customs of the place. Copyright laws can also prohibit certain movies or shows from being shown in certain places as well.
- Some shows simply do better in different demographics. Russian comedy shows might not translate well into English, which means they would perform badly in US Netflix. Because of this, Netflix won’t show them in that region, which makes using a VPN to spoof being in Russian Netflix territory appealing if you want to watch the show in our example.
This regional blocking is pretty common but again, a VPN can (or ideally should) help as a workaround. Netflix has caught onto this though, because when you connect your device to a VPN to access the net, so are thousands of other people. When thousands of devices are accessing Netflix through the exact same IPthe Netflix servers see this and block that IP.
This is where most VPNs fail – since early 2019, Netflix has been increasingly stepping up their VPN-blocking security. This means any proxy service that’s not actively trying to keep up to this blocking activity will simply not be useful for accessing streaming services.
Are There Problems Specific to PIA When Accessing Netflix?
PIA unfortunately has its own specific problems in addition to the larger overall increase in Netflix security. These few problems are enough to make it such that PIA is actually one of the worstVPNs for Netflix access.
- PIA has worked pretty hard to keep the primary regions of Netflix – US, UK, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands – unblocked. They do this, however, at the expense of every other Netflix region, which means PIA simply cannot connect at all to other regions on most days.
- Netflix executives have actually come out and said they are actively blocking PIA’s servers specifically, which is pretty bad news if you’re PIA (or a customer)
- PIAs speeds are somewhat less consistent then other VPNs, and Netflix punishes bad connections. In fact, there is a minimum 1.5mbps threshold in order to get reliably connected streaming. Anything less and Netflix will intermittently dump your connection until it becomes more stable.
All of these factors combined suggest highly that PIA should notbe your first choice for a VPN to watch Netflix. Does that mean, however, that PIA is a bad VPN in general? Let’s take a look at how PIA stacks up to its competition, in case you’re still considering using their services.
Netflix Aside, How Is PIA as a VPN?
There are many VPN services out on the market, and they range in value in a number of areas:
- Speed – how much does the VPN slow down you connection?
- Streaming – can this VPN be used to stream sports and other media like Hulu and Netflix?
- Privacy – is my personal data safe with this VPN? What if they get subpoenaed by a government?
- Torrenting – is this service optimized for torrenting or p2p file sharing?
- Reliability – will my VPN drop out while I’m playing Fortnite or can I stream a video of the Queen eating cake without the quality dropping to potato?
- Price – does the VPN cost an arm and a leg?
- Support – how easy is it to troubleshoot?
- Added value – what other features help make PIA worth the investment?
If you’ve already got PIA and are considering switching, the following information should help you decide where the service stands. Likewise if you’re still considering PIA – like if you live in one of the primary regions – this information should help you decide if it’s right for you.
Right out the gate, PIA is doing something right. UK-based, PIA has better speeds in the Europe and the United Kingdom but it does well across the globe, US included. Roughly 80% of actual speed is what can reliably be test with PIA, which is pretty solid for a VPN.
It’s not as fast as NordVPN in the United States but it blows Nord out of the water in the UK. Likewise, it’s not as fast as ExpressVPN but Express is the top of the market, so it’s difficult to compare them fairly.
We’ve already talked about this – outside of the primary regions, PIA is not great for streaming Netflix and nearly as bad with other streaming services as well. A better alternative is ExpressVPN, though there is a price difference which can be the only difference that matters in some cases.
Certainly VPNs located in different countries will have stronger or weaker privacy protections. PIA is located in the US, which is better than it being in China, but worse than it being in say Panama, where Nord is based.
The good news is that PIA claims to not log any data whatsoever. This means no download, upload, search, or browsing data should be connected back to you at all. This will thwart even your ISP, who very much is selling your data right now if you’re not using a VPN at all.
PIA does track your email and your payment information, but that might not be an issue for you. It’s not illegal to use a VPN after all, and they also accept a wide range of payment options beyond just credit cards, including Bitcoin. These options can help protect your anonymity as well.
If you’re inclined to torrent, you might want a VPN purely for that reason. That said, many VPNs will ban you for torrenting or at least make it harder to do. PIA actually is quite torrent-friendly, going so far as to publicly state that they support p2p sharing.
While that’s not a direct endorsement of sharing movies and media through torrenting sites, it’s a glimpse of what can be considered a policy of non-aggression towards using torrents. In addition, PIA has servers optimized for p2p sharing which are still covered by PIA’s exceptionally strong encryption.
The 2 main factors that go into reliability for a VPN are number of servers available and the number of countries in which those servers are housed. PIA maintains over 3,400 servers across 34 countries that span the globe. While it’s based in the US, connections overseas are fast, solid, and reliable.
In addition, PIA is a fairly old VPN, going back to 2010 and have a consistent track record of supporting internet privacy and sharing. This support includes:
- The Software Freedom Conservancy
- Creative Commons
They haven’t swayed from the dedication to a free and private internet, and this mission comes through in their service.
One of the best points of PIA as a VPN is the fact that it’s one of the cheapest VPNs that still provides good service. At $9.95/month, it’s pretty standard for monthly payment, but if you’re considering a VPN and you feel it’s worth the investment, it’s always better to sign up for a year or more at a time.
PIA offers a 7-day money back guarantee so you can try it before you commit. If you like the service, they have a $5.99/month option for 1 years, billed at $71.88 one time for the whole year. Finally, if you LOVE them, you can sign up for 2 years at once, billed at $83.87 total for the two years, which works out to about $3.50/month.
The service they provide is pretty solid aside from streaming Netflix and if it works for you, it’s difficult to beat those prices.
Some VPNs excel at customer service, but PIA isn’t rocking that upper tier. Instead of a live chat, they offer a ticketed support system and an FAQ database. This isn’t bad exactly, but the ticketed support is slower than you’d probably want, especially if you needyour VPN so safely browse the web.
The app is pretty user-friendly but even still, not having live support in an age where the top companies all do really sets PIA back a step or five.
Nearly all VPNs worth considering are increasingly adding value to their apps to compete with other companies. PIA is no different, offering some spectacular additional benefits to their service:
- Simple, stripped-down software means you install it and connect immediately
- Up to 10 simultaneous connected devices
- A customizable kill-switch to ensure that sensitive programs and downloads get shut down if the connection to the VPN drops
How Does PIA Rank Overall?
Overall, PIA is just fine, offering very cheap pricing and service that is effectively above that pricing. It’s not as good as ExpressVPN, but it’s night-and-day above a free VPN and some pricier ones as well. It doesn’t work well with Netflix outside of the US or UK, and it’s located in the United States, which isn’t great for protecting your privacy.
They have a reliable network of servers, but outside of Europe and the United States, their coverage is not exceptional. In addition, there isn’t much good to say about their customer service when compared to their competitors. Still, their dedication to torrent privacy and reliability speaks further to their commitment to protecting a free and open internet.
Does PIA work with Netflix? Eh, not particularly well, but if you care about more than that and don’t want to break your wallet, it’s acceptable. Give the 7 day trial a whirl and if you hate it, go with ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
What Are Potential Risk Factors of PIA Being in the United States?
We should preface this by reminding you that PIA’s policy is very open-internet and no-logging, so they are very dedicated to your privacy. That said, the United States is one of the original “5 Eyes” countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well. These countries can force internet service providers, social media platforms, and other internet-based companies to share data and effectively act as spying eyes on their customers.
These 5 Eyes countries have set their sites on VPN companies, trying to pass laws that drive transparency but VPNs fight back on a regular basis. PIA is a company that is highly dedicated to fighting this sort of spying, but being based in the US, they can be subpoenaed by the government to give up data on their customers.
While they would certainly fight it, and they have a strict no-logging policy so there shouldn’tbe much data to begin with, the United States government is powerful and far-reaching. Being based in the US is one of their biggest weaknesses, honestly.
Will PIA Work in China?
China is a country with incredibly strict internet monitoring, so it tracks that they also have a high use of VPNs. Unfortunately, PIA doesn’t do well with the so-called “Great Firewall of China”. While some companies have invested in workarounds for this blockade, PIA hasn’t done much and it’s not a priority.
If you’re in China, either as a citizen or visiting, you’ll need a different VPN if you want to securely bypass China’s security systems.