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Sick of NBC's vapid Olympics coverage? Use Opera's built-in VPN and you can watch the BBC's coverage instead

Mark Hachman | Aug. 15, 2016
"We'll have more from the Olympic Games in Rio after these messages from our sponsors."

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? Fear not, there is an alternative: Tune into coverage from the BBC and the CBC. It’s simple and completely free with the Opera web browser.

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 are very, very few VPNs that are both free and that offer unlimited data. We’ll show you how to use the one built into Opera, so you can watch better coverage of this year’s Games.

Here’s the secret to the whole thing: Opera has built a free and unlimited VPN into the developer edition of its web browser. 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 that 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.

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, because Opera is requesting a foreign video stream on your behalf and piping it to you as if you’re not in the U.S., but in the country where the BBC or the CBC owns the rights to present coverage of the Games.

Step one: Download the developer version of Opera

You can read this story to familiarize yourself with Opera in relation to other popular browsers; but for this use case, you don’t want the standard version of the software. What you want instead is the version aimed at developers—it’s the only one that comes with the integrated VPN. Developer editions of software are sometimes buggier than the standard versions, but I’ve always found Opera’s developer edition to be very stable.

(Note: It’s worth noting that Opera was recently sold to a Chinese consortium that includes Qihoo, a security company that has been accused of privacy violations and cheating during testing. If this concerns you, use Opera only for viewing the Olympics; no foreign government cares whether you prefer archery, track, or rhythmic gymnastics.)

Once you’ve installed Opera, enter the Settings menu by way of the menu at the upper left. (Alternatively, you can simply type Alt + P.) Once you’re in the Settings menu, simply type “VPN” in the Settings search box, below the URL box at the top of the screen. You’ll be presented with an Enable VPN option and a checkbox. Check it.


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