For many of us, the internet has become almost as much of a need as electricity and water.
We stay connected with others through social media and email. Entertainment is streamed online, and we turn to Siri or Google with our questions. Not to mention, it’s much harder to find things to do when you’re bored without the internet!
Since the internet has become such a big part of daily life, it can be almost debilitating to not have access to it.
Whether your internet service goes down temporarily, you have recently moved and it is taking a while to get service started again, or you have made the choice to skip paying for internet service in order to save money, being without internet access may have you wondering how to get internet for free.
Ways to get free internet legally?
The good news is since most of us have come to rely so heavily on the internet, it is available more prevalently now than ever before.
Whether you are facing a move to another state with no money, are making an all-in commitment to frugal living, or are facing a temporary internet outage, it’s good to know how to get free internet.
How to get free internet at home
Internet bills don’t have to be a sizable monthly bill. If you know how to get free WiFi at home, this can be a noticeable saving for you.
If you have access to free internet, the money can go towards something more fun when you ask for a raise at work!
There are some who know how to get free internet at home illegally, but there are plenty of above the board, legal ways to do it as well. Here are just a few (legal) ways to get free internet at home.
FreedomPop is a great solution for free internet service if you are just looking for occasional, light browsing. You get 200 MB of free 4G LTE monthly, or if you are looking for more than 200 MB, FreedomPop does have reasonable rates – although not free – for additional gigs.
There is an upfront cost for the device you’ll need to connect to the internet, but beyond that, you are the keeper of an underused secret for how to get free internet at home.
NetZero is another solution for limited free internet. You can also get 200 MB of free mobile broadband data each month, with an upfront payment for a NetZero Mobile Broadband device. If 200 MB isn’t quite enough, NetZero also offers paid plans at lower rates than many other internet providers.
You may remember NetZero as being one of the early names in home internet access in the 1990s. If you are feeling nostalgic for 90s internet, NetZero does still offer a dial-up internet plan that gives you 10 hours of free use per month. While it isn’t the most modern solution, free is free, and NetZero’s dial-up plan is a relatively reliable way to hop online at no cost.
While this solution may be frowned upon, it can be a great temporary solution – especially if you have just moved. If your neighbors are kind enough to share their WiFi password with you, this can be one way to hop online until you can secure a more permanent solution.
Consider offering to trade something you can do for them in exchange – never underestimate the power of an offer to mow someone’s lawn or delivery of freshly baked cookies!
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How to get free internet in public
We all need a change of scenery from time to time, especially if you work from home. If you need a change of pace, but still have a deadline to meet, here are some options to consider for getting online for free outside of your home.
Your cell phone can be used as a hotspot for your other devices to use to get online. According to data from Pew Research, most of your “online time” is already through your smartphone. You’re already paying for your cell phone plan anyway, so take full advantage of your data allowance (even better if you have an unlimited data plan!) to connect to the internet from your other devices as well.
Some internet service providers, including Comcast XFINITY, offer WiFi hotspots outside your home that you can connect to via your account.
While this isn’t technically free, since you are paying for the internet service at home, it is a great way to get online when you are on the go using a service you are already paying for anyways.
Any excuse for a latte is good enough for me, so coffee shops are your friend when it comes to public internet access.
It’s a good idea to support the business you are hanging out at, and some won’t provide the password until you make a purchase, so the outing may not be entirely free, but the internet access should be.
Many restaurants also offer internet, so consider taking your laptop along for a working lunch if you aren’t a coffee drinker.
Think a little outside the box for other local businesses that offer internet access near you.
Do you have a membership at a gym with free WiFi? Grab a seat and hop online after your morning workout.
Do you live near your city’s airport (and are able to focus in the midst of hustle and bustle)? Consider heading that way to grab a seat in the pre-security area to connect to the internet and get some work done.
There are many ways to save money at the library, and free internet access is one that should not be overlooked.
Libraries are a sometimes forgotten and often underused treasure but should be at the forefront of your quest for free public internet access.
Whether it’s your public library or a nearby university library, you can find a quiet corner to settle into and get online with absolutely no obligation to purchase anything. Libraries are a great resource for the community they are serving, and taking advantage of that resource when you are in need of a place to get online is an excellent decision.
WiFi Map is a tool that makes it easy to find WiFi networks near you. Download the WiFi Map app to your device, and use it when you need to connect to the internet. You will find free WiFi networks near you, and can choose the closest one and give it a try. If it’s not working well, you can simply disconnect and try a different network until you find one that works best.
WiFi Map is crowdsourced, meaning people just like you and me are adding information to the site regularly that the rest of us can use to get online in the future. The more people who use WiFi Map, the better it is for everyone as more users will lead to info on more WiFi spots being added!
If the network has a password, WiFi Map will even tell you what it is – thanks to users who have connected to that network before and are now sharing that information with the rest of us.
WiFi Map already has information for connecting to over 100 million different WiFi hotspots in more than 200 countries around the world, which makes WiFi Map a great resource for international travel as well.
If your employer offers internet access that you can connect to from personal devices, consider coming to work a little earlier or staying a bit later to do your personal web surfing.
This is also a great solution for downloading podcasts or episodes of your favorite show to watch at home. Start the download when you get to work for the day, and you don’t even have to come in early or stay after work!
Limitations of free internet
We have all heard the same phrase: “you get what you pay for.”
When it comes to connecting to free internet networks, this is something that must be kept in mind.
Free internet is a great resource when you can find a good network, but there are definitely some limitations to relying on free internet options.
Not consistently available
Unfortunately, you can’t always find a free network to connect to when you need it. Some businesses have limited hours, which means your neighborhood coffee shop or library may not be available when you need to hop online at 11 PM to answer an urgent email.
Could be slow
Few things are more frustrating than packing up your laptop and gear, driving to your favorite place to connect to the internet for free, and opening your laptop only to find that the internet is extremely slow or flat out not working.
This can be caused by an issue with the network, several people using the network at the same time, or other issues that you unfortunately don’t really have control over. There also may be a data limit, which is another consideration to keep in mind.
Potential security/privacy risks
Using a public network means your computer may be more at risk for contracting a virus or malware. Additionally, your information may be at risk if someone who knows what they are doing and wants to steal your info is also connected to the network. Use the safety tips below to ensure you are protecting your computer and your information when getting online.
Safety tips for free internet
Be cautious on public networks
While it may seem like a relief to find a free WiFi network that is actually easy to hop right onto, it is actually a cause for extra caution. If it is easy for you to connect, it is easy for anyone to connect to the same network – including cybercriminals.
If you are connecting to a public network, especially one without a password, avoid doing anything sensitive while connected. This includes online banking or entering personal information. Wait until you are on a private, trusted network to take care of these online tasks, or use a VPN.
Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) helps you browse the web on a public network with an extra layer of security. A VPN allows you to essentially create a private connection within a public WiFi network, which keeps your information a little safer.
There are plenty of free VPN options out there, and it’s a great idea to consider one if you plan to use public WiFi networks regularly.
Watch out for viruses and malware
Be sure to install an anti-virus software on your computer and make sure to keep your computer operating system updated.
Running an older system can make your computer more susceptible to viruses and malware, which can wreak havoc on your computer and may expose sensitive data in some cases.
Disconnect and forget the network ASAP
Once you’ve finished what you need to do, be sure to disconnect and forget the network. If you don’t “forget” the network, your device may automatically connect in the future without you even realizing it.
If you are entering sensitive information or checking your bank account, you may not notice you are connected to a public network. It’s much safer if you intentionally join the network each time you need to.
Yes, it is possible to find free internet access. It is even possible to do so legally!
Whether you are looking for a way to avoid a monthly internet bill while you pay off student loan debt, are trying to find a temporary solution until you can get full internet access following a move, or are exploring options to get out of the house and get some work done in a different environment, you do have options.
There are some risks and limitations to keep in mind, especially if you are looking for a long-term solution.
If you know how to get the internet for free, however, you may thank yourself later if you face a sudden internet outage or need to get online when you are away from home.