Don't have ESPN360 access? There may be hope

Finally!

This past Saturday marks the official* start of the 2008 college football season. Those of you who weren't watching the 56-3 lashing of Fort Valley St by Valdosta St. in the highly touted Division II match up, that means your season probably officially begins for you on Thursday around 6pm EST. Cable service provides quite the buffet of games for your enjoyment, and for most, the creme of the crop 7:30pm EST showdown between North Carolina State and South Carolina on ESPN.

ESPN360The only problem was the game I needed to see was only being shown on ESPN360, ESPN's online video streaming site. This presented quite a problem since ESPN360 isn't your typical subscription based website where a user can simply sign up. Instead, it is more akin to a premium cable channel where your provider must first agree to pay to carry the service before it is ever offered to the customer.

Unfortunately for me, Bright House Networks, our local cable and internet provider here in Orlando doesn't have an agreement in place to offer ESPN360. This leaves me stuck without being able to watch my beloved Hurricanes take on Charleston Southern in their season opener on Thursday night.

Getting Access to ESPN360

Not one to back down until the fat lady sings, I started scouring Google for a solution. Interestingly enough, I came across this tidbit on the ESPN360 Wikipedia article:

Beginning in 2008, ESPN360.com is also offered free to all high-speed college (.edu) and U.S. military (.mil) IP addresses.

Yahtzee! Having attended the University of Central Florida, I remember that students and employees used to be able to access the schools VPN. A small form and a couple of emails later, I was up and running with VPN access which I was able to connect to and obtain the coveted .edu IP address. As a test, I fired up Firefox and pointed it over to ESPN360.com and was able to access the system and watch a little bit of the Little League World Series they were currently showing!

If that wasn't enough, the Wikipedia also mentioned this about the ESPN360 and the Gameplan package:

…ESPN has rolled over its online ESPN GamePlan package to ESPN360.com as of September 1, 2007. On-line viewers that do not have an ESPN360.com affiliated ISP will be unable to receive the Gameplan content online. However, individuals who do have an ESPN360.com affiliated ISP will get the ESPN GamePlan or ESPN Full Court content online for free.

Checking the upcoming weeks' football listing, I am happy to confirm that you do indeed get their Gameplan lineup. Finally, college is starting to pay off!

Of course, your mileage may vary. I'm not the least bit knowledgeable of the VPN policies for other universities so I'm not sure if this will work for everyone. If all else fails you can always go hang out in the school's library or a buddies military dorm. In either case, here is a list of some of the local Universities' VPN pages that I could find online if you wished to try the same setup.

Update 8/27/2008:

I've added a Greasemonkey script I wrote to the projects page that will allow you to open more than one instance of the 360 media player a little easier.

Update 6/14/2010:

They re-branded their ESPN360 service as ESPN3.