It seems like only yesterday where you could get free AOL CDs at your local drugstore. With all of the cord-cutting going on these days, free internet seems almost too good to be true. There are several tried and true methods for acquiring free internet, and in this article, you’ll learn how to get online without spending a dime.
10 Brilliant Ways To Get Free Internet
FreedomPop is your one-stop shop for free internet. While not technically free (they require a refundable deposit), FreedomPop will send you a wireless router that you can use to access the internet from anywhere. Unfortunately, the data is capped at 500 MB per month, but for those interested in checking a few e-mails every once in a while, this free internet source will get you online. You can always upgrade to one of their paid plans if you need more data, all while using your existing router.
It’s important to note that FreedomPop uses existing cellphone towers to acquire a connection. This means that to obtain free internet through FreedomPop, you’ll be connecting to either Sprint or AT&T. This may or may not work for you, depending on your location and ability to acquire a signal. It’s a good idea to check both Sprint and AT&T’s coverage maps before committing to the service, even if the internet is free. It’ll save time in the long run.
What’s strange is that while FreedomPop is carrier-based, they currently do not offer talk or text features along with their free and paid internet plans. While certain features like iMessage and web browsing may work, users expecting to make and receive calls may be left in the dark with this option. Always check your current system requirements to determine if the service will meet your wireless needs.
If you’re nostalgic for dial-up internet, then NetZero is a viable option for free internet. While you won’t be streaming videos in 1080p, it’s still a workable option for those using under 10 hours of internet use per month (NetZero’s limit.) There are always paid plans, and while not lightning fast, they still might be worth a look.
NetZero was the first to offer free internet, dating back to the 1990s. If you’re someone who prides themselves in using a tried and true method of getting online for nothing, then NetZero is going to be tough to beat. The only downsides are the slower speeds (dial-up only) and the time limit (10 hours per month.)
Another interesting service offered by NetZero is a free e-mail. With both mobile and web access, and the ability to create multiple e-mail addresses, it might be worth a look for those using NetZero as their free internet option. They also offer wireless plans, ranging from 200MB up to 8 GB per month.
EveryoneOn.org is another viable option for obtaining free internet. EveryoneOn is a not-for-profit created to connect low-income households with free internet and even a computer. Not everyone will qualify for the free plan, but they still offer low-cost options that are certainly worth a look.
To figure out if you qualify for free internet, simply visit their website and click the find offers button at the top right of the screen. There you can enter your zip code and see a listing of free internet (if available) as well as additional options. You could even qualify for training programs that would teach your kids the basics of computing, all at no cost to you.
Some may argue that a smartphone is enough, but the connection may or may not be reliable, depending on location. Doing things like writing a cover letter or filling out a job application is difficult and cumbersome on the phone. While you can always tether, some might not have that option or even own a smartphone at all.
Believe it or not, there are over 60 million people in the United States who do not have the internet at home. This lack of internet affects all demographics, but it is strongest amongst minority and low-income populations. This is where EveryoneOn makes sense – by providing free internet to those in need; they are creating both social and economic opportunities that may not have been afforded just a short time ago.
4. All Free ISP (Now ISP-IN-AREA)
While not exactly free internet, All Free ISP is a database that connects you with free internet offers (think back to those AOL CD’s, only in the 21st century.) You simply enter your zip code and are then shown to all of the free internets offers available in your area. If nothing free is available, then the site will list available services and their prevailing rates.
UPDATE: There seems to have been a name change from All Free ISP to ISP-IN-AREA. The same basic concept remains, but there is now a listing of states rather than zip code entry. It’s also a useful tool to compare pricing, but it’s a good idea to check with the actual ISP for further incentives.
It’s also important to note that not all the listed plans will be available in your area. It’s always a good idea to follow up with the ISP to determine availability, costs, and whether or not free internet is available as stated. Even so, the site is still a useful tool for locating free internet.
5. ISP-Provided Wi-Fi Hotspots
It’s a good idea to check with your internet service provider to see if they offer free internet via hotspots in your area. For example, Spectrum offers numerous free Wi-Fi hotspots in convenient places such as grocery stores, restaurants, and parking areas. This is especially useful for those on a limited data plan, where they can connect to the internet for free and not use any of their monthly data.
The following companies also offer Wi-FI hotspots with some (or all) of their services: AT&T, Verizon, Xfinity, and Time Warner Cable. You can usually find whether or not this option is available to you by logging into your account online and checking your statements. If the feature isn’t listed, then you can usually call customer service and request that they add Wi-Fi hotspots to your existing service – sometimes they will do this for no charge. Free internet is only a phone call away!
Keep in mind that even though your ISP provides the hotspot, it should always be treated as an unsecured, open network. This means not sending or receiving any sensitive information (think social security numbers, credit card information, etc.) unless truly necessary. When in doubt, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access these connections. While generally safer than Public Wi-Fi, it’s still wise to err on the side of caution.
6. Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
Many places offer free internet, including airports, bookstores, coffee shops, and even your local mechanic. Libraries are another option. It’s important to note that Public Wi-Fi is unsecured, and you should always use them at your own risk. Connecting through a VPN is a good idea.
Firefox’s latest browser has a free built-in VPN service to go along with your free internet. However, to protect your entire computer, it is recommended to use a true VPN service like ExpressVPN or IPVanish. They are paid services, but if you’re getting the internet for free, then the trade-off for security is a reasonable compromise. You really cannot put a price on a little peace of mind, especially in the day and age of data breaches and the like.
The other nice thing about Public Wi-Fi (aside from being free) is that you can access the internet from almost anywhere. If you want peace, there’s always the local library. If you want to meet with a group over a hot beverage, then a coffee shop would be a reasonable option. The point is, if you’re in any major metro area, it’ll be hard NOT to find a source of free internet nearby.
7. Finding Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
There are apps that help you locate the nearest free internet connection. Simply head to your device’s app store and search for “wifi finder.”
One particularly useful app is WiFi Map. It not only functions in the United States, but it also shows free internet locations across the globe, making it ideal for frequent travelers. They even have a website in case you forgot to install the app.
As of this writing, there are several retail chains all over the United States which offer free internet and Wi-Fi. Those retailers include Starbucks, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Dunkin’ Donuts, The Apple Store, Whole Foods, and most hotels.
Another popular source of finding free internet spots near you is to use WiFi Free Spot. It’s a web-based site that lists locations across the USA that offer free internet. They also have a section for Europe, Canada, and other locations across the globe as well. While not our first choice, it’s still an option.
8. Tether To Your Phone
While not technically free internet, it’s still an option for those looking to go online. By utilizing your existing data plan, Wi-Fi Tethering turns your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing devices such as your laptop or tablet to connect to the internet.
On an iPhone running the latest software, you simply go into settings and click on Personal Hotspot. Toggle the switch ‘Allow Others To Join’, and you should see your phone appear on your device’s Wi-Fi Network. Simply enter the password and voila: free internet.
Depending on your connection, you could see speeds that are much faster than the other free internet options. If you have unlimited data, then this option makes even more sense. Just keep in mind that your carrier may throttle your speeds once you reach a certain data point.
9. Check Your Car
Have you purchased a new vehicle recently? Many new vehicles not only come with an available Wi-Fi Hotspot, but they include a free trial as well. A benefit to these is a stronger signal – when your phone might not have a connection, your vehicle might. Many popular models like the Subaru Forester and Ford Escape all come equipped with an optional Wi-Fi Hotspot.
If you’re unsure whether your car has this, an easy way to find out is to look at one of the side windows. They’ll usually have a “Wi-Fi Enabled” sticker. Of course, the best way to truly be sure is to consult your owner’s manual. This will tell you if that feature is there, and how to use it.
While not technically free internet, if you’re in a vehicle equipped with OnStar and find yourself in an emergency, you can always use the red OnStar button to call for help. This is especially important in areas with spotty cell coverage. A vehicle’s transmitter is much more powerful than a handheld phone, and therefore may be able to connect to a nearby tower when your phone still shows “No Service.”
10. Don’t Forget Friends and Family
Sometimes, you just need to get something done. Whether that’s uploading a file, downloading a song, or just checking e-mail, don’t forget that searching for free internet doesn’t always have to include a business. It could be a great way to catch up with friends and family whom you haven’t seen in a while.
While we can’t recommend using your neighbor’s Wi-Fi network without their permission, it doesn’t hurt to ask. They may allow you to use their guest network. Just keep in mind that whatever you send and receive over their internet is traceable, both on their end and from their ISP’s. Again, err on the side of caution and be respectful of a service that someone is providing to you for free.
The Bottom Line
Free internet truly exists, even if there are limitations. For someone on a budget, or for someone who only uses a small amount of data, the above options are both useful and reliable sources of getting your devices online. Whether you’re at home or on the go, there’s a way to get online without spending a dime.