Posted on Jun 7, 2017 by Caleb Chen

Most UK ISPs block Private Internet Access by default


uk isps censor

VPN websites, like that of Private Internet Access, are actively being censored by internet service providers (ISPs) in the United Kingdom (UK). The website blocks were first put into place by UK ISPs on government order in an effort to censor pornography in 2014. Since then, more ISPs have joined in default blocking. However, research has shown that the blocks are overreaching – with 1 in 5 websites being blocked when the censorship program first rolled out. UK ISPs initially incorrectly blocked everything from civil rights blogs to used car sales sites; what’s worse, these blocks are on by default.

Open Rights Group, a London-based organization, created a tool at blocked.org.uk that allows you to check whether or not a website is being blocked by UK ISPs. This crucial tool has revealed that most UK ISPs block Private Internet Access by default if the content filter is on.

Note: Sky and TalkTalk ship with “default on” filters while BT and Virgin Media still don’t. This article originally mentioned AAISP as an ISP that blocked the https version of privateinternetaccess.com because test results on that day showed an error/lack of connection, AAISP has since clarified that they do not have any default blocks.

The UK has millions of internet users, the majority of which can’t access the PIA homepage

According to the Office of National Statistics, the percentage of the population in the United Kingdom (UK) that has used the internet in the last 3 months is a whopping 89%. Internet penetration in the UK surpasses that of neighboring European countries and even the United States.

Many of the United Kingdom’s internet users, close to 60 million total, are unable to access the Private Internet Access homepage, even if they can read this article on our blog. According to Blocked.org.uk, users of O2, Sky, Virgin, and Three with adult filters on will be unable to access this site (https://www.privateinternetaccess.com) while users of Vodafone and EE will also be unable to access this site (http://www.privateinternetaccess.com). You can see the full results of the tests here and here.

Of the four UK ISPs (BT/PlusNet/EE, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk) with the most subscribers, three are blocking Private Internet Access. Additionally, since access to the internet through public wifi hotspots is largely provided by Arquiva, BT, Sky, Nomad, Virgin Media, and O2, the vast majority of these users are unable to access Private Internet Access, either. Suffice to say, censorship is still rampant in the UK. A new, more censored internet – as promised by Theresa May – has already arrived.

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Disclosure: Private Internet Access is a financial supporter of Open Rights Group

About Caleb Chen

Caleb Chen is a digital currency and privacy advocate who believes we must #KeepOurNetFree, preferably through decentralization. Caleb holds a Master’s in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia as well as a Bachelor’s from the University of Virginia. He feels that the world is moving towards a better tomorrow, bit by bit by Bitcoin.


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18 Comments

  1. Matteysan

    Hi, Sky subscriber here, PIA is not blocked…

    6 months ago
    Reply
    1. Caleb Chen

      Hello, Matteysan!

      Thanks for your valuable input. Did you turn off Sky Broadband Shield?

      6 months ago
      Reply
      1. Matteysan

        Broadband Shield has always been off. Maybe that is why it has been blocked I guess? I don’t intend to turn it on to test it though. Also I am on Three & it isn’t blocked on there either.

        6 months ago
        Reply
  2. Simon

    Plusnet subscriber here, PIA is not blocked for me, and yes, I did turn PIA VPN off to test it !

    6 months ago
    Reply
    1. Caleb Chen

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Simon! Plusnet is not one of the UK ISPs blocking privateinternetaccess.com at this moment.

      6 months ago
      Reply
  3. lwsrbrts

    I agree, the problem here is that this censorship is overreaching on its mandate. It was designed to keep children safe from inadvertently accessing pornography. The problem now is that since this is clearly not working, they introduced the Digital Economy Act which brings in more censorship of pornography and Theresa May is still not happy because she wants backdoors to encrypted communications as well. The UK government is unequivocal in its pursuit of having access to every one of its citizens’ private data, to hell with their human rights and any basic right to privacy! I am utterly horrified by the language the government use but the electorate is apathetic and believes that because the government want it, it must be OK. Unfortunately, it will be too late once any new powers have gone through and trying to have them rescinded will be an exercise in futility since anyone silly enough to challenge the government will be subjected to smear by investigation or ridicule from leaks about their private life. We have essentially already sealed our fate by ignoring this.

    6 months ago
    Reply
  4. Stuart Fanning

    I have Virgin Media Broadband and PIA is not blocked.

    6 months ago
    Reply
  5. Gordon Brown

    I’m with BT and three, no problem accessing PIA on either.

    6 months ago
    Reply
  6. Lewis Baker

    I find this post very clickbaity and pretty disingenuous, and almost misleading considering most comments are “I’m on X and it’s not blocked!” which shows a lot of the readers don’t actually realise you’re talking about the network-level adult content filtering which the majority of internet users have not opted in to or had opted out of at signup.

    While I agree that default-on filtering is a completely stupid idea, as the article says only Sky and TalkTalk actually operate a default-on filtering program, everyone else uses opt-in. Ofcom has released multiple reports about filtering uptake and it is consistently shown to be extremely low, <10% of new customers, on most ISPs and <5% for some, only TalkTalk has a higher uptake. So actually the vast majority of internet users aren't affected by it, and the ones who are (people with filtering enabled) probably want VPNs blocked so their kids can't bypass it so easily anyway.

    6 months ago
    Reply
    1. Caleb Chen

      Thanks for your comment, Lewis!

      Ofcom’s last report was for 2015 and even then the results showed that Sky had significantly higher than 10% uptake among all their connected homes. https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/news/2015/07/sky_protecting_millions_through_sky_broadband_shield/

      In 2015, 26% of internet connections had blocks
      https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/news/2015/12/ofcom_broadband_users_switching_off_adult_filters/

      Specifically, the 2015 ofcom report places Sky Broadband Shield use at 30-40% while Sky themselves claimed 70%.

      Also, in the time since 2015, TalkTalk and Sky and many other ISPs and telecoms do force 100% of new customers to have this filter “default on.”

      6 months ago
      Reply
      1. Lewis Baker

        We’re in complete agreement that the default-on system is wrong but where we differ is the supposed impact this has on the vast majority of internet users and in turn people concerned about internet privacy. 26% of internet connections is still well below the percentage of UK households with children so the likelihood that any meaningful share of those are unwillingly caught up in the system is pretty low. The majority of people who have these filters enabled are going to want VPN sites blocked along with whatever offensive material they perceive they’re protecting their children from, so that their children can’t simply use one of the popular VPN providers to bypass it.

        When you look at the comments here and those on facebook you can clearly see at the very least a misunderstanding by a lot of people surrounding this post, as everyone’s posting “I’m on X and it’s not blocked!” not understanding that when you say “Most UK ISPs block Private Internet Access by default” that “by default” means if they haven’t opted-out of the adult content filtering and if they’ve even switched ISPs in the last few years, which by uSwitch’s statistics some 30% of internet users have never switched and so would not be subject to ever being asked about those systems anyway. That’s misleading clickbait to me.

        6 months ago
        Reply
  7. AAISP

    This is not true. AAISP – as you should know, being fellow supporters of Open Rights Group, do NOT block!
    Please update this post. (We actually help run the blocked.org.uk website!)

    6 months ago
    Reply
    1. Caleb Chen

      I have updated the article for with the correction and I deeply apologize for the confusion. The results from blocked.org.uk showed a lack of connection on that day for the https site, but it is all clear now. Thank you for all your support with blocked.org.uk!

      6 months ago
      Reply
      1. AAISP

        at 16:19BST, it still says ‘ According to Blocked.org.uk, users of O2, Sky, AAISP, Virgin, and Three with adult filters on will be unable to access this site’ – we have no filters 🙂

        6 months ago
        Reply
  8. foolishpiacustomer

    Awesome that these guys respond to blog posts, but not support requests!

    6 months ago
    Reply
  9. WILLAM

    My vpn is not blocked. i am using ivacy and it is steaming the UK Netflix videos.

    6 months ago
    Reply
  10. james

    im from london and i cant login to your android app since some days ago, what i do?

    6 months ago
    Reply
  11. j

    hi i cant watch stuff when sky or bt block a program but have the program is over it comes back on is there anything i can do in the advance settings to overcome this

    1 month ago
    Reply