The 2012 Olympics are available to watch via online live stream, but viewers must have paid subscriptions in order to experience all the action on the NBC site.
Jason Legate is one such 2012 Olympics fan. The 31-year-old Californian system administrator told the wire service that he has watched at least 12 hours of live BBC coverage of the Summer Games (which English residents can access for free online) via his chosen means of circumventing NBC's wall to non-subscribers.
Legate told Reuters he uses a virtual private network (VPN) connection in order to re-route all his web usage through a server in London, thereby allowing him to to watch the Olympics via the BBC, which cannot tell he is actually based on the Pacific Coast of the United States.
Many people are using work-arounds because they simply don't want to pay for expensive cable plans, but many others simply do not own televisions and have no other way to watch the Games.
And some others see it as a protest against NBC's control of the world's premier sports competition, which has become a corporate, commercial behemoth, but many sporting fans still see as something they have a right as humans to watch, whether or not they choose to pay for pricey cable or satellite plans.
NBC's content wall is the network's method for blocking Americans from watching the Games without paying for that right. And the network has a strong argument for why it should do so, as it paid $1.18 billion for the exclusive Internet and TV rights to broadcast the 2012 Olympics in the United States.
But there has been a serious backlash against the network's blocking the online Olympics broadcasts from people who have not been "authenticated" as having paid cable or satellite subscriptions. The phenomena has helped give birth to the "#NBCfail" hashtag, which Twitter users have used to show their distaste with the firewall and other complaints about the network's handling of the games, including various PR snafus, the high prevalence of ads on the official online streams, and crummy, spotty livestreams even for "authenticated" customers.
This all combines to foster an environment of protest among some tech-savvy Olympics fans, who are finding means to avoid the restrictions and watch the 2012 Summer Games for free.
"Because all of my Internet traffic looks like it's coming from that box in England, the BBC thinks I'm located in England," Legate told Reuters in describing the way he evades the roadblocks and watches the Olympics for free.
And he says that though he pays for cable service, he became dismayed enough by NBC's handling of the game that he decided to circumvent its rules in order to "boycott" the network:
"To me, it just felt like they were insulting everyone so I basically decided to boycott NBC for the duration of the games, which meant I had to find an alternative," he told Reuters.
New York City journalist Kate Gardiner is one of the folks using TunnelBear to watch the Olympics on her computer, according to Reuters. The 26-year-old says she wants to watch live swimming events, and that she does not own a television, so she had to find an alternative.
"I'm not going to buy a cable subscription to spend three weeks watching Olympics coverage. It's not going to happen," she told Reuters.