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Think there’s no way to get free internet access? Think again!
Let’s be real here, the cost of internet service is getting ridiculous. In fact, the average American household now pays $67 for internet. That number is lower in Canada, around $55. Many ISPs start their internet packages at around $50, and they go well up into the 3-digit range from there. As more people get online and speeds continue to increase, prices are only going to go up!
There’s never been a better time to look at how you can get free internet.
Most of us have become pretty accustomed to paying for internet. We pay for internet at home, we pay for it on our phones, some of us pay for internet plans on our tablets as well. I’ve always hated paying for internet. Although it’s probably one of the more useful things that I spend my money on, it can be hard to justify paying monthly for it when the coffee shop down the road offers Wi-Fi for free!
Legit (and legal!) ways to get free internet
I came across Everyoneon when I was doing research for this article. Everyoneon is an organization that helps individuals and families get access to discounted internet plans. They work with ISPs to deploy low-cost internet that typically ranges between $10-20 per month.
If you’re considered low-income, and are struggling with the cost of internet service, you might want to consider contacting them to see if you qualify for a subsidy.
One of my favorite ways to access the internet for free is to take advantage of free Wi-Fi hotspots. They’re all over the place. Coffee shops, hotels, malls, airports and retail stores are just a few examples of places where you might find free Wi-Fi hotspots. Some will be password protected, but you can usually get access by making a purchase.
Some towns are now offering free Wi-Fi hotspots that can be accessed around the city. If you’re looking for a place to rent, it would be a bonus to find an apartment that was near enough to one of these hotspots that you could connect for free anytime!
Want to know how to find the best hotspots everywhere you go? Download an app such as Wiman or Wifimapper to help you locate free Wi-Fi no matter where you are.
Some common places to find free Wi-Fi are:
- McDonalds restaurants
- Public libraries
- Panera Bread
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Whole Foods
- Rec Centers
Check for municipal Wi-Fi hotspots
More and more municipalities are offering free Wi-Fi access. These can be found at rec centers, municipal halls and offices, parks and sometimes just on the street. Check out what you can find locally, you might have a Wi-Fi hotspot right near your home and not even know it!
Use your phone as a hotspot
Most modern smartphones are capable of projecting a Wi-Fi signal. Of course this eats away at your data and should be used sparingly. If your internet needs are meager and you have a great cell phone plan, you could potentially get away with just using your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot at home and ditching the internet plan altogether.
Netzero offers free internet service with a catch – it’s dial-up only. Remember in the early days of the internet when somebody would pick up the phone in the other room and kill your connection? Yup, that’s dial-up. But hey, it’s free!
They offer a limited amount of access (10hrs/month) for free using your existing phone jack and modem. If you’re not a heavy data user, you could combine this with using your phone as a hotspot to give you more access options.
Ask a neighbor for access
Do you have a good relationship with an easy going neighbor? If you’re within range of their Wi-Fi you could just ask them for access. Obviously, not everybody is going to be willing to give you access for free but you never know. It doesn’t hurt to ask. You might get free internet access, or you may be able to strike a deal where you share the connection and share the cost, a win/win for both of you.
Negotiate internet with your employer
If you work from home full or part-time, it’s a good idea to ask your employer to cover some or all of your internet cost. It’s a fairly low-cost perk for them to offer you and you might be surprised how willing they are to help you out. You never know if you don’t ask.
Head to the library
Pretty much every library offers free Wi-Fi these days. Whether you just want to surf or need to do some work, the library is a nice quiet place to get it done for free.
All free ISP
All free ISP is a pretty cool service. They don’t actually offer internet, rather they help consumers find cheap and even free local internet offers.
They maintain a free database of internet offers that you can take advantage of.
Many of the free offers require you to watch an ad prior to using the internet, to gain access.
This is a different business model and super interesting as it’s completely free to you. If you don’t mind watching an ad or two you should definitely check them out.
How to get cheap internet
Ok so we’ve covered the free options. Maybe none of those work for you as a full-time solution. Below, I’m going to look at a variety of options for a cheap internet connection.
Split the bill with neighbors
If you don’t use that much data, you might consider splitting your connection with a neighbor or two. You could use the same modem but each have your own router. This is best done with people you trust as there’s always a risk of your data being compromised when you’re sharing an internet connection.
Before you decide on this type of arrangement you should check that it’s not against your ISPs terms of service.
Check out discount internet plans
I’ve been with a discount internet provider for five years now and they’re fantastic. The speeds and service are on-par with what we had with the big guys. For us, there hasn’t been a downside at all but we’re paying just over half of what the same speed costs with one of the larger providers. It’s not free internet, but you could still save a lot of money!
Haggle for a better deal
This one’s simple. Call your ISP and tell them that you need a better deal or you’re leaving. They may have a better offer for you. Most companies have a loyalty department that they put you through to when you want to leave. These employees can almost always offer you a better rate than other customer service staff.
Negotiate with roommates
Hey, if other people are living with you and using the internet, they should buck up and help pay the bill right? Consider negotiating your Wi-Fi costs with roommates, boarders or even your mother-in-law downstairs :).
How to safely use free internet connections
If you’re going to use free public Wi-Fi, you need to know how to stay safe. The reality is, no public internet connection is 100% secure. It’s just the way things are. That said, there is a lot that you can do to protect yourself and ensure that nobody else can access your private data.
Use a VPN is possible
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a connection method that is used to protect the data of the user by routing your data through a private network that uses a different IP address. In addition to giving the user a different IP address, a VPN can encrypt your data for more secure transfers, and mask your location. Check out this article to help you get started with a VPN.
Stick to secure websites
Pretty much all major websites are secure now. You can sell by looking at your browser bar. If the url of the site you’re on starts with ‘https’, it’s secure. If it begins with just ‘http’, it is not secure. Pretty simple right?
Https makes it nearly impossible for anybody to snoop on the information passing between you and the server of the site you’re visiting. Again, most major sites are secure but it’s worth watching out for on public connections.
Careful how much info you give away
This may seem obvious, but you should avoid entering personal information, banking details, credit card info or other sensitive data into your browser while on a public Wi-Fi connection. It’s a pretty risky thing to do even if you’re taking other precautions.
Stick to well-known networks
Wi-Fi networks offered by large national chains such as Starbucks and McDonalds are typically a better bet than the one offered by the cheap motel down the road. This isn’t always the case, but it’s best to be more cautious when you’re using a network set up by a smaller business.
Understand the limitations of free internet
While free Wi-Fi is a great way to reduce your mobile data costs for basic usage, it’s probably not the best choice for people who stream lots of video, work from home or perform other data-intensive tasks.
For extreme usage, you really should just skip the free internet and consider some of the cheap or shared cost options.
As covered above, there are also a variety of risks involved. It may be worth it to you and it may not, but now you can make an informed decision moving forward.
Question for you:
Do you know of another way to get free internet at home or on the go? Let us know in the comments below!