Sunday, March 8, 2015

Video Streaming on Base...without a VPN

Streaming options using the Sony blu-ray. 
Billabong is the only option.
We have a Sony blu-ray player that connects to the internet to stream Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. When we lived in Hawaii and Rhode Island we had no problem streaming said services through it. It stopped working as soon as we plugged it in and got it set up in Japan. Those apps wouldn't even show up on the screen as options to connect to. We then went out and bought a ROKU 3 at the NEX. Only a handful of channels (YouTube and some self-help) would show up and could be added. That’s great, but the reason we spent the nearly $100 was to use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc since we couldn't with our Sony blu-ray player.

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Pandora all work on our computers, tablets, and phones. Though we are physically in Japan, the streaming services recognize us as having an American IP address since we are connecting to the internet on base. Whether living on the main base of Yokosuka or satellite base of Ikego, they’ll work. Sony and ROKU, however, do not. They see us as being in Japan, so their servers block us from using the services we pay for. It's aggravating because they're blocking the U.S. Military service members and their families. Our cable and ISP, Americable, can't do anything about it since the services work on the computer...that proves the problem isn't with Netflix, etc. 

It’s aggravating that these devices are sold at the NEX, but don’t work as advertised without workarounds. Sony even has a dedicated section at the back of the electronics department to sell their products. There are no signs to tell you about the limitations. None of the workers on the sales floor seemed to know either. You won’t realize they don’t fully work out of the box until you take them home.

We called the Sony and ROKU help lines several times to see if they could do anything. They both ran us through hours of troubleshooting and factory resets. They both claimed the units should work on any American IP address, but had no explanation why ours was an exception. The Sony rep ultimately suggested we send the blu-ray player in to be repaired. It sounded like they were following scripts, so they had no way to address a problem that was outside the normal. We eventually talked to the local Sony rep at the NEX. Sony servers block us. Period. According to the rep there is an agreement to get it working in April.

We eventually found some workaround ideas online for the ROKU but none solved the complete problem. It took a while since there was so much misinformation. This is a technical issue that a lot of people don’t understand, but that doesn’t stop them from providing advice. Apparently, the surefire method is to pay for a VPN account and set it up on your router. This will route all of your internet traffic through a server in the U.S., hiding your actual, problematic IP. The problem is that a VPN account can cost up to $15/ month. We shouldn’t have to pay for this since the streaming services already work here. 

As for the ROKU...the key is doing the initial account set up in the U.S. This was confusing since a lot of people said theirs worked fine. After asking friends/neighbors and posting on numerous message boards, I figured it out. Some suggestions were to have a VPN, plug the ROKU directly into the router, or to return it since it won't work. One person that responded said they had a ROKU 2 before moving here, bought a ROKU 3 at the NEX and haven't had any problems. That's when the light bulb went on in my head. Bottom line - If you set up your ROKU in the U.S. it'll work here. It will also work if you add a new ROKU box to your existing account (that was set up in the U.S). If you buy one and try to set up a new account on a US military base over seas it won't work

The solution was to have friends in Boston do the initial account setup on their computer for me. I chose the username, password, etc and they put in all the information for me via the ROKU website. They then added my ROKU box to the account and it activated on my TV screen here. As they added Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and PBS, the channels instantaneously appeared on my TV. Now we can add and remove any channels we want from the TV and the ROKU is none-the-wiser. 

As for Sony...we'll see and I'll keep you posted. 


Anonymous said...

Thank you. We have tried everything with our Sony TV only to be told it was broken. We got a Roku and that won't work either. No one can help and we were going to return the Roku to the NEX this week. We will try it and see if that works.

Anonymous said...

Your instructions worked! Thank you!! We are going to catch up on shows we haven't been able to watch since December. I'm going to tell friends at a base in Italy who have been having the same problem for a couple of months.

Anonymous said...

Hello! Can you talk a little bit about the speed of the Americable internet service on-base? Do you have any problems streaming any of the online services through Roku? How about if you have multiple devices (i.e. cellphones, iPads, laptops) on your wireless network at the same time while streaming? My wife and I bought a Roku 3 recently in anticipation of our PCS, so we were happy to read your post!

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Anonymous said...

I had the same problem in Italy with a Roku device bought, installed and used for an year in the US. Specifically all the movies broadcast thru Amazon Prime resulted unavailable in Italy. Another channel - forgot which -
recognized the device was being used in Italy and didn't even want to start. I'm now in Japan and haven't had the chance to test it out but i don't expect it to work...

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