Tired of NBC’s incessant commercial breaks during its coverage of this year’s Olympic Games? Fed up with the network’s banal stories about the athletes in competition? Up until last November, there was a wonderful, free alternative: accessing the BBC and CBC from a free VPN that was built into the Opera browser. But that door has been closed, and you’ll need to seek out a paid VPN service instead—or Opera’s free trialware.

We’ve already shown you how to watch the Olympics without paying for cable TV. What’s the next step? Watching them through a VPN (virtual private network). You can use any VPN you’d like, but there aren’t really any VPNs that offer free, unlimited data. Opera did, which made it so special.

 A VPN “tunnels” through the internet, providing a secure conduit between you and a website that information travels through. It’s good for security, but there’s a side benefit: the “end” of the tunnel can come out in a different country than the one you’re sitting in. You could be in the U.S., for example, but the website thinks your PC is physically located in England. To tap into the BBC, for example, the content provider needs to be convinced that your browser and your PC physically reside in the U.K.

Some people use VPNs to get access to Netflix movies that wouldn’t otherwise be available for streaming in the country they reside in (most often due to licensing issues the movie studios insist on. Netflix, incidentally, has become wise to this practice). Using a VPN to get around regional licensing restrictions is admittedly something of a moral/legal gray area.

Opera built a free and unlimited VPN into its Web browser, which was supplied by SurfEasy, a company Opera bought Unfortunately, in November Opera sold SurfEasy to Symantec, and revamped its VPN. While Opera still has an unlimited, free VPN service, the regions have been generalized: you can’t select from Canada or the U.K., just a generic “Europe” or “Americas” location. Neither allows you to actually access the BBC or CBC directly. Your solution, unfortunately, is to seek out a separate VPN service.


The free services we tried didn’t provide medal-winning quality, but most offered a decent picture.

Step one: try a free VPN

We’ve compiled an extensive list of paid VPN services, many of which offer solid protection for just a few dollars per month. But what if you don’t want to commit to paying for the duration of the Olympics? You have a couple of options.

opera vpn regions Opera

Opera’s free browser VPN just doesn’t offer the region specificity that you’ll need for this task.

The first is simply to download the SurfEasy VPN service, which hasn’t disappeared. It  can plug into Chrome or Opera, and offers options to surf from a Canadian or U.K. IP address. Video quality varied from average to decent—nothing really comparable to the way things were, unfortunately. The real problem is that SurfEasy only offers about a gigabyte of bandwidth, with the option of increasing your allowance through “rewards” like sharing the service with friends on social media. That bandwidth cap disappears fast when streaming video.

There’s another alternative: the free version of Windscribe Pro, which offers the convenience of being our recommended choice for accessing Netflix in foreign countries and offering a nice free package to boot. Windscribe Pro includes a free version with a 10GB monthly cap, and though its endpoint choice is limited, there’s still the option of the U.K. and Canada. And if that’s not enough, you can invest $9 per month to be free of NBC’s rah-rah promos and watch a foreign provider instead. 

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