Free internet is all around us. With these tips and tricks you can find a free connection at home or while out. Even if you do not have a computer, your local public library is probably covered.
Out and about: Public (and corporate) Wi-Fi
Free Wi-Fi hotspots are common in urban areas. But even if you're on the road, you probably pass many companies that offer free Wi-Fi.
Some cities offer public Wi-Fi networks, which may be available in parks and other public attractions. However, this is more common in larger cities than smaller ones.
Many companies offer free Wi-Fi hotspots. Cafes like Starbucks and other smaller independent cafes are known for that, but it doesn't stop there. Fast food restaurants like McDonald's and stores like Walmart and Target also offer free Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is not available in every store, but is available in many of them.
These are just examples of large chains offering free Wi-Fi. Many other chains also offer free Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi is also common in many smaller businesses, including cafes, bars and restaurants.
We call these Wi-Fi hotspots "free", but you are generally expected to buy something when visiting a company with free wifi. Still, if you need to grab a quick coffee or buy something at the store, you can get some free Wi-Fi while doing so.
There are some risks to using public Wi-Fi, but it is much safer than it used to be.
If you have the Internet at home: Your ISP's Wi-Fi
If you pay for an internet connection at home, there is a good chance that your ISP operates a network of Wi-Fi hotspots that you can connect to for free. These can give you pretty good coverage when you are at home. You just need to connect to the hotspot and log in with your ISP account.
For example, AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Optimum and Spectrum are just some of the ISPs that offer Wi-Fi hotspots. Comcast calls these "Xfinity WiFi" hotspots. Many Internet providers outside the United States also offer similar networks. Check with your ISP to see what it offers.
Internet providers usually turn people's home windows into public WI-Fi hotspots, so you find that these are often widespread within the ISP's coverage area. For example, if you have Comcast and it's common in your city, you'll probably see Xfinity WiFi hotspots everywhere. But if you travel somewhere where Comcast does not offer services, you may not see them at all.
Provided you have an internet connection to your home and want to access the internet when you are on the go, this is a great way to get free internet connection when you are away from home.
Home: Get free (or very cheap) Internet
Getting free internet connection in your home is a little more difficult. If you live in a dense urban area, you may be able to connect to an open public Wi-Fi network and use it as your main Internet connection. It probably won't be as fast as a dedicated home internet connection.
You can also try sharing someone else's Wi-Fi. For example, if you have a good relationship with your neighbor, they may let you access their Wi-Fi. It is possible.
You probably can't get your own free internet connection. If you have a landline, it is still possible to use a free dial-up Internet service provider such as NetZero, which gives you 10 hours a month to surf for free. But it is full of advertising, will be very slow (remember the internet in the 90s?) And requires the fixed telephone bill. This is far from a good alternative.
Many Internet service providers offer subsidized low-income plans. Usually, you must already qualify for a public support program to receive this discounted pricing. For example, Comcast offers its Internet Essentials plan for $ 10 a month to those eligible. It's not free, but these plans offer the cheapest home internet you can pay for. Similar subsidized plans may be available in other countries.
While these plans are for low income families and individuals, you may be able to reduce your monthly Internet bill by downgrading your plan to a lower rate or negotiating with your ISP. You may be able to save money by purchasing your cable modem and avoiding the monthly rental fees as well.
Everywhere: How about free mobile access?
Did you know that you can get free mobile internet anywhere in the United States? Some mobile operators offer basic plans with some free data each month. You can use it on a smartphone or even get a Wi-Fi hotspot. They are betting that they can somehow get money from you after you are a customer.
For example, FreedomPop offers 200 MB of data for free every month. It's not at all – but it's free. You need to buy a FreedomPop SIM card for your phone, tablet or Wi-Fi hotspot to get started.
Look, let's be honest: 200 MB is not a lot of data at all, and a company that FreedomPop won probably doesn't have the best customer service. TIME Magazine wrote about its "shady" business practices as early as 2013 and we are not sure how much has changed. We haven't tried it ourselves and can't approve it. But free is free, and it exists.
The FCC also offers a life support program that provides subsidized mobile telephony to low-income households. If you are eligible, you can get discounted or even free cellular data through the Lifeline program. For example, Verizon Assurance Wireless announces a telephone plan with free monthly data through Lifeline.
No computer necessary: Public Libraries
Public libraries are powerful resources that are often overlooked. Your local public library probably offers free Wi-Fi that you can use as long as you want along with a comfortable place to sit.
Libraries generally offer computers that you can use as well. Depending on your library, there may be a time limit on computer usage so anyone who wants to use a computer can do so.
Your local library probably offers a lot more, too. Blu-rays, DVDs, CDs, and maybe even video games are common. Many libraries also offer free access to online courses, magazines, video streaming services, ebooks and audio books.
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