Wednesday, September 18, 2013

BBC and web accelerators don't mix

Do you have a problem with the BBC website? Even though you're based in the UK it seems to have a lot of adverts for American companies on it? And it's not that you don't like American companies, it's just that you've already paid your licence fee and that means that you shouldn't have to see any adverts at all.
Even worse than that, because it thinks you're not in the UK, it won't let you access any of the iPlayer content!

At some point in the last few weeks that started to happen to me on my Android (Nexus 10, no less) tablet. Thankfully I managed to solve it.

A quick scan of the BBC help seemed to just direct me to my ISP (they may route you through foreign / non-UK servers - I knew this wouldn't be true as my desktop works OK, and it doesn't sound like BT). A quick mail to them seemed to confirm my fears - no problem there.

A mail to the BBC was never going to be much use. I don't blame them, they have a lot of people to deal with and none of them pay a subscription fee that's optional. It makes no economic sense for them to have a good technical help line.

Any way, after a lot of Google searching for phrases like:
  • The BBC thinks I'm not in the UK when I am.
  • iPlayer thinks I'm not in the UK.
  • iPlayer won't serve me any content.
  • BBC has adverts on it.

And many other variations on the theme, I decided to go back to the BBC site and give it one last go.

On one of their help pages I spotted a pretty throwaway comment about web accelerators causing problems sometimes. Knowing that Google's a little too clever for its own good sometimes this seemed like a good avenue to check.

It turns out that this was the problem, and it's really easy to solve.

In Chrome (on Android 4.3 anyway) go to:
  • Settings
  • Advanced
  • Bandwidth management
  • Reduce data usage
  • Then in the tip right corner, flick the switch to off.

That simple.

Basically, if this is switched on then a lot of content isn't served from its source. Rather you get it from Google instead - it gets it from the source, simplifies it, re-compresses it and then sends it to you so that you can get a modest 20% saving on your download sizes.

The result is pretty much as the BBC describes it, your internet content is routed through non-UK servers. It's just that it's not down to your ISP doing, it's Google.

So, hopefully, when you get that dreaded "BBC says I'm not in the UK" feeling, your Google search will bring you here and you'll solve the problem in a fraction the time it took me!

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