In 2015, Netflix began blocking IP addresses known to be associated with commercial VPNs from accessing the Netflix system. Now, under revised policies, the company has begun blocking IP addresses generally known to be part of residential IP subnets, causing havoc for netizens who are caught in the crossfire between Netflix and those trying to thwart the company's geofencing system.
Netflix blocks IP addresses in order to preserve region locking through geofencing. This practice makes it so that you have to be within the borders of England in order to view certain England-specific content. But, through a VPN or other means, netizens have had the ability to trick Netflix into believing they are in that country. While VPN locks have been generally well accepted, the new policy affects people who are not involved.
The problem comes in the form of IP leasing, a process that VPNs, which are interested in keeping the region-shifting customer happy, use to borrow "clean" subnets. Then, once Netflix figures them out, they return the subnet to the owner and move on to another. However, the situation that is currently happening is that some of the VPNs are leasing residential subnets from ISPs, getting them blocked by Netflix, and then returning them to the owners.
Of course, once returned to the owners, the block is not lifted by Netflix. This leaves the IPs in that subnet blocked by the service, catching subscribers of the ISP that leased it to the VPN out in the cold. Previously, Netflix had maintained a mostly hands-off approach to IP addresses that were known to be residential but has changed its tactic. Now, the company is actively blocking those IP addresses.
This new policy, in addition to creating a terrible user experience for those who are not doing anything but trying to access their own Netflix library, also causes net neutrality issues for the company. In many places, Netflix is not allowed to block or throttle legitimate access to their service - but is allowed to do so if someone is trying to violate the law or the company's policies. In this case, users are trying to do neither of these things and are still being prohibited from using their full Netflix library.
In the early days, Netflix would outright ban the entire IP address if it was associated with a VPN. Today, the policy is a little different - instead of an outright ban, the company makes region-specific content unavailable. So, if you are in the United States and trying to access Australina content through a VPN, only the Australian content would be missing. However, if you are in Australia and trying to access Australian content, an affected IP address would still be prohibited from seeing those shows and movies.
For those who are affected, some users have reported that releasing and renewing their IP address can help. But, that requires a level of knowledge that many Netflix users do not have. Clearly, Netflix is going to have to figure out how this virtual game of cat and mouse can be resolved because users are not going to wait around forever, being treated like a criminal while doing absolutely nothing wrong.