How to Watch Netflix on School Wi-Fi
TLDR Note: If you are on your school or work Wi-Fi and want to watch Netflix right now, we recommend that you use ExpressVPN (click this link to get 3 months free - a 49% discount!). Netflix will be immediately unblocked upon connecting to the service.
Wow! That Physics exam was a real killer. Now it’s time for you to head to the school library and study for the Algebra exam coming up later this afternoon. But surely it wouldn’t hurt to take a short break - maybe catch up on the latest binge-worthy obsession on Netflix.
WTF? “Can’t load Netflix”? And the same error message is on your smartphone, too?
Welcome to the wonderful academic world of blocked websites.
It seems that many schools, from grade school through graduate school, block numerous websites from use by their students while on school property.
For some odd reason, institutions of learning have this weird idea that students should restrict their internet activities to strictly educational pursuits while using a school internet connection. What a silly notion!
It seems to me that if you’re keeping up with your studies and scoring high on your exams, then you should be able to take a short video break in the school library. (But, don’t tell my kids I said that…)
In this article, we’ll take a look at how schools block your access to services like Netflix, and what tools you can use to get around those roadblocks.
How Schools Block Netflix
If a school IT department wants to block its students and faculty from accessing a particular website, there are a number of ways it can effectively keep the site out of reach.
The techniques used to block a website or IP address can vary. If a school controls its own network, complete with servers and routers, they’ll control what is and isn’t allowed as far as internet access goes locally via their own set of network administration tools, which control the network’s firewall.
If a school contracts their network out to a third-party administrator, they can request to have certain IPs or website addresses blocked out of hand.
No matter how your school does it, there are ways to get around the blocking, which will allow you to access Netflix, just like you can in your home or dorm room.
Unblock Netflix by Using Your Own Cellular Internet Connection
Perhaps the easiest and most reliable way of getting around any internet restrictions your school may impose is by using the 4G LTE internet connection that is available via your smartphone or tablet.
By using the internet connection built into your smart device, you can easily view Netflix on your device’s screen, or you can even use the hotspot feature most mobile devices now offer. Since you’re no longer using the school’s Wi-Fi connection, which is where the Netflix-blocking takes place, you should gain access to the streaming service even though you’re still on school property.
However, many students (and teachers) are on a data plan that only offers a certain amount of data per month before it is either capped completely or slowed down to 2004 data speeds. If this applies to your situation, you will certainly want to explore another avenue of getting around your school’s internet roadblock.
Can You Unblock Netflix by Using a Proxy Server or Tor?
While you can use a proxy server to unlock many websites that are blocked by your school, such as Facebook or Instagram, I was unable to find a proxy server that could reliably access Netflix.
While some proxy servers could access the front page of the Netflix website, and even allow me to log in, once I hit the content area of Netflix, nothing would load. I tried various settings, but no luck on any of the proxy servers I tried.
As for Tor, the Tor Browser doesn’t work well to unlock access to Netflix. While the website would load, also allowing me to log in (occasionally), movies could not play, claiming I was missing the Microsoft Silverlight extension. (The Tor Browser is based on the Mozilla browser.)
So, neither of these free ways to unlock some websites blocked by schools work for the Netflix video-streaming website.
Unblock Netflix Using a VPN
If you’re a regular visitor to this website, you know I am a big fan of using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access blocked content.
A VPN can quickly create an encrypted internet connection that prevents an Internet Service Provider or a government - or a school, for that matter - from being able to monitor your online activities. This makes a VPN perfect for accessing Netflix from school networks.
A VPN connects you to a VPN provider’s servers via an encrypted tunnel. Think of it as the subway system in New York City: when you’re walking the city streets, you know there is traffic flowing beneath your feet, but you have no idea exactly where it’s headed or what the subway cars contain.
For the last several years, there has been a virtual chess game going on between Netflix and VPN providers. Netflix does its best to find out what IP addresses VPN services are using and then proceeds to block those.
Meanwhile, VPN providers continually add new IP addresses and work to develop new ways to cloak the VPN connection from Netflix.
What all of this means is that a VPN server that offers access to Netflix one day might be rejected by the streaming service the next time you attempt to connect via that same server.
I’ve had luck, both good and bad, in accessing Netflix via a VPN during my U.S. and international travels. Here, I’m going to share the services that seem to offer the best all-around access to the streaming service.
#1 - ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is an easy-to-use and reliable VPN (full review here).
While it doesn’t always score a touchdown when it comes to connecting with Netflix, it has done a better job than most other providers I’ve tried. ExpressVPN has helped me connect with blocked websites when I’ve been behind China’s Great Firewall, so it’ll be able to handle whatever your school’s network administrator has built.
ExpressVPN’s subscriptions are reasonably priced at $12.95 per month, $59.95 for 6 months, and $99.95 for 12 months. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
#2 - NordVPN
NordVPN is another favorite of mine (full review here). This VPN service offers reliable connections, and I have had great luck in accessing Netflix whenever I’ve used it.
A 1-month subscription is $11.95, a 6-month subscription is $42 ($7 per month) and a 1-year subscription is $69 ($5.75 per month). NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. Payment options include PayPal, credit cards and Bitcoin.
Use a SmartDNS Provider
A SmartDNS service works much the same way as a VPN service, only it doesn’t offer encryption to hide your data from prying eyes.
It does, however, offer an excellent way to get around your school’s blocking of Netflix, and it’s usually much cheaper than a full-blown VPN service.
While you can manually set up a different DNS provider in your computer or device settings, in some cases, it can be an involved process, and you’ll need to change your DNS settings back the way they were after a viewing session.
A SmartDNS provider offers a quick and easy way to temporarily alter your device’s DNS settings to get around Netflix-blocking at your school.
Such a provider temporarily changes your device’s DNS server settings to get around the school’s own DNS server, which is likely blocking the Netflix URL and IP addresses. The app does this with just a few clicks of the mouse.
Check out a SmartDNS provider, such as Overplay, for more information.
By taking advantage of a VPN, SmartDNS or even your own wireless provider, you can easily get around your school’s restrictive network settings and enjoy a Netflix session whenever and wherever you want.
Let’s go over the high points:
Schools Block Netflix, But You Can Get Around It
Many schools block their students and faculty from accessing websites such as Netflix while using the school network. There are ways to get around these restrictions, allowing users to still view Netflix content.
Proxy Servers and the Tor Browser Are Not the Solution
Proxy servers and the Tor Browser are not satisfactory solutions. Netflix refuses to stream under either method.
You Can Use Your Device’s LTE Connection, But…
While a user can make use of their mobile device’s built-in 4G LTE connectivity to view Netflix content, this raises other issues. These include the danger of going over a possible monthly data cap, causing the user’s cellular data connection to be shut down or severely throttled for the rest of their billing period.
A VPN is the Best Solution
The most reliable solutions for circumventing school network restrictions is the use of a VPN provider or a SmartDNS provider. Both solutions allow users to connect to almost any website or online service they desire to. For most situations, I recommend ExpressVPN, as it offers the best all-around performance and access to Netflix.
Warning: when viewing Netflix while on school property, always show a little restraint. Try to keep viewing binges down to the time between classes or during lunch. Never continue a binge during an important test, or while sitting in the principal’s office. And, never, ever ask your homeroom teacher for her Netflix password.