Private Internet Access

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Private Internet Access VPN Header

 

Private Internet Access is owned by a company named London Media Trust, Inc. The service is oddly named given its American roots. London Media Trust, Inc. and PIA were co-founded by Andrew Lee in 2009. Interesting note, one of Andrew’s previous jobs is listed as Mt. Gox Live. The keen news junky or bitcoin afficionado is likely to remember Mt. Gox Live for once being the largest bitcoin exchange in the world. It will forever live in clouded infamy for its sudden 2014 collapse. Since this happened several years after Andrew Lee left the organization, I am confident he had nothing to do with it. Now, let’s get back on track VPN services are one of the best way to increase privacy, security, bypass firewalls and access geo-restricted content!

andrew lee co-founder private internet access vpn

                     PIA Service Overview

Servers in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Israel, Romania, Netherlands and Switzerland
$6.95 Per Month or $39.95 Per Year
No Download Limits
No Speed Limits
7 Day Refund Policy
No Traffic or Request Logs
OpenVPN, PPTP, and IPsec over L2TP Protocols
P2P / Torrents Allowed
Instant Activation
Many Payment Options

private internet access

 

Private Internet Access Terms of Service

 

The most important part of the Private Internet Access TOS is their adamant claim they do not keep logs. They actually use this as a selling point of being located in the United States. Interestingly, the United States is still one of the few countries that does not require service providers to retain data logs for a certain periods of time. This means that Private Internet can be fully compliant with the law, but have no records whatsoever to turn over. I would still never recommend using a VPN service to do anything that is either illegal or unethical.

Another reassuring aspect of PIA is that they offer a 7 day refund window if you are not 100% satisfied with the service.

 

Private Internet Access Torrent Policy

 

Private Internet Access allows P2P / Torrent usage on their network. They are considered a torrent friendly service. PIA continues to increase network capacity to ensure to ensure they will never exceed 50% usage during peak hours. BitTorrent downloads are advertised as being completely anonymous (take this for what you will). A positive sign for users looking to increase security with their torrent usage is the fact Private Internet Access accepts Bitcoin. Bitcoin itself is a digital currency that relies on peer-to-peer technology to send payments with no central authority.

Another attractive aspect of using their service with torrents is the connection kill switch function. Even if you have a VPN provider that values your privacy, your ISP assigned IP address could potentially be exposed if the VPN connection drops. The kill switch function completely stops your computers Internet connection if you become disconnected from the VPN. This function ensures maximum safety and privacy.

Speed Test

 

Speed will vary greatly based upon your location with any service provider. PIA is a premium service capable of providing superior speed. It is also dirt cheap with rates as low at $3.33 per month if you pay for a year at a time. Private Internet Access is a fast service in our tests. I recommend buying a monthly plan to see if it suits your needs. You can always switch to the cheaper annual plan later.

If you ever experience slow speeds with a VPN service, make sure you try a few different servers. You can also try using different protocols. PPTP tends to be the fastest, although it is known for being the least secure. OpenVPN which uses SSL will likely be a little slower.

 

During my recent speed tests, I was able to download at over 20Mbps on all the US servers. My mass download speed when not connected to a VPN is only 30Mbps. The degradation in speed was minimal and the overall speed ware more than ample for most uses.

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pia california

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Software

The software is fairly minimalist. The system tray allows users to see if they are connected to the service, but there isn’t much feedback beyond that. The interface makes it hard to see your assigned IP address and if you are receiving any errors. None of these issues are a big concern to me. I mostly care that the software is stable and maintains a reliable connection.

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private internet access software

PIA now has a highly regarded Android app. You can click here to download it from the Google Play store. This app has a 4 star rating with over 7,000 reviews.

private internet access google play

The app is most useful if you prefer the OpenVPN protocol. PPTP and L2TP over IPsec are extremely easy to setup using the default features of your phone. It’s interesting to note that the number of installs is listed at between 500,000 and 1,000,000. This is a great indicator of the dominance of Private Internet Access.

pia android app

Does It Work in China?

As is the case with many VPN providers, the service is accessible in China, but the website is usually unreachable. This can present a strong obstacle to registering for the service in the first place, although most Chinese are well versed in the art of proxied traffic.

pia in china

One of the tricks to using PIA in China is to connect to the server using the IP address instead of the written name. For example, you use 169.53.156.236 instead of us-california.privateinternetaccess.com. There are also reports of OpenVPN being very slow in China. You might sacrifice the added security and use PPTP to increase your speed.

Payment Options

Private Internet Access accepts PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Google Checkout, Amazon Payments, Bitcoin, Liberty Reserve, and OKPAY. Here is a somewhat amusing thread on the PIA forum about buying Bitcoins anonymously.

pia payment options

Reviews Around The Web

PCMag gives PIA an excellent 4.5 star rating. Their review is dated November 27th, 2013. I am not sure I fully believe the date on this review since some of the comments are dated as being 1+ year old. The most interesting part of their review is they mention an anonymous payment component where you can cash in gift cards from merchants like Starbucks and Gap for service. I knew that they accepted a wide variety of payment forms, including Bitcoin, but I didn’t realize the options were this obscure. I was amused to see how slow the connection was from a PCMag writer. The way he constructed his tables, it appears that his download speed with or without a VPN is less than 2 megabits per second. Let’s hope for his sake he meant megabytes.

Private Internet Access has been on the front page of Slickdeals.net many times. Each time the service is mentioned, it receives rave reviews. This is a promising sign since their users are known for being particularly discerning.

BestVPN claims the service does not degrade his 10Mbps download speed while actually managing to increase his upload speed.

TopTenReviews refers to VPN providers as proxy services. While this is technically accurate, it is weird word choice since a proxy is typically used to refer to a different type of technology. Either way, they give PIA 7.85 out of 10 rating. Their main complaint is a lack of servers. As I have previously expressed, I don’t think this aspect will impact 90%+ of VPN users. I get the impression that their review was written by someone who knew very little about VPNs and their review only ranks so well due to the overall strength of the site.

Arstechnica wrote a fascinating article in 2013 about PIA. It’s a reassuring piece about how serous the company is about privacy.

 

Competitors

In terms of quality for the price, it is hard to beat Private Internet Access. They are dirt cheap, respect privacy, and offer a fast and reliable service. If you require access to more servers, you might consider IPVanish or HMA. I recently wrote an article dedicated to comparing PIA and HMA.

 Summary

When it is all said and done, Private Internet Access has emerged as one of the most popular VPN services. They strike a good balance of low price, strong privacy, and generous terms of service. PIA is based in the United States. This might scare some, but to most, it won’t matter. We would also like to see more server expansion. Again, this is an area where the current setup is more than sufficient, while additional servers might cause a price increase.

Overall, PIA is a great provider.

private internet access

What Is A VPN?

A virtual private network is a common way to increase privacy and security on the Internet. Privacy is increased because the user’s ISP assigned IP address is replaced with one from the VPN provider. This makes it hard for websites and anyone else who can see your IP to determine identifying information, including your location. Since your location cannot be correctly determined, a VPN allows users to evade Geo IP restrictions and firewalls. Since you are no longer leaving your digital fingerprint everywhere, you can also do activities, like torrenting with an increased sense of safety and anonymity. Security is increased because a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel where traffic is re-routed based upon the VPN providers’ network configuration. This last aspect is an important attribute that means you want to select a premium VPN provider. Fortunately, Private Internet Access is one such provider.

6 Responses to “Private Internet Access”

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    February 26th, 2014 at 5:34 am

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  4. Sid says:
    March 20th, 2014 at 12:59 am

    PIA is the best VPN provider to cheaply and privately download torrent files.

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  6. Harold says:
    October 10th, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I have been with them for 2 years . but the last 6 months no mater what server you connect to it quits transmitting. Lately i have been having trouble connecting.
    i did a clean install sometimes it works for 4 hrs and sometimes 30 minutes.
    so i will be dumping them

    Did you find this review helpful? Yes   No

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