Commercial and Residential IP Address Classification

You might not think it’s important, how a particular IP address is classified and for many years you’d have been largely correct. An IP address is of course essential to take part in the largest network ever known to man – the internet. Without an IP address whatever device you have wouldn’t be able to converse via TCP/IP and as such would never be able to send an email,download a movie or browse a web site.

Of course to a computer or server there is little distinction between IP addresses, as long as each one is unique then the system will happily function. However those who control the computers, the website owners and administrators do see IP addresses in largely different ways. Take for example what happens to A French IP address when it visits the BBC web site – it quietly gets rerouted to the international version of the BBC. This is because the BBC restricts all it’s programmes and online content to license fee payers based in the UK.

All the big media sites are the same looking up the nationality of your IP address before deciding whether you’ll have access or not. It can be annoying at best and often very inconvenient particularly as we travel more and websites restrict access to a greater extent. Some banks for example restrict access to online accounts from outside the country which is fine for protecting against fraud but not so good when you want to pay a bill or check your balance when travelling!


Of course this is the internet and the more big companies tried to block and filter your access, the more workarounds appeared.  Fast forward today and pretty much all of these filters can be bypassed by using VPNs to spoof my IP address and pretend it’s from another country.  All across the world people use VPN services to take control of what they can see – instantly switching to another country when meeting yet another pesky region locked web site.

However a warning, this is likely to change in the next few months as the web sites have discovered a way to block these services.   It has always been possible to check and block individual IP addresses from VPN services however it is extremely time consuming and allows providers to simply switch addresses easily.  Now Netflix have introduced a new method for blocking the VPNs by using the IP address classifications rather than their location.

Each IP address is assigned to either a commercial or residential user for utilization.  All the companies with private address spaces and the data centres will have ‘commercial’ ip addresses whilst ISPs will use mainly ‘residential’ IP addresses which are assigned to you and me.  Unfortunately this stark distinction between the two types of IP addresses works perfectly as a method of blocking the use of VPNs.   Virtually every VPN is assigned a commercial IP address because the servers are all based in data centers across the world – so blocking these addresses basically stops people accessing their web sites through a proxy or VPN server.   Netflix have done this and suddenly millions of people who need VPNs to access the site have been blocked – simply VPNs no longer work.

Although I should clarify that commercial IP VPNs no longer work – if you want to read about the next stage in this virtual battle , you’ll need to find a residential VPN service.   That is a virtual private network which has access to residential IP addresses which can’t be blocked.