How to Get Free Internet and Wi-Fi
Getting your internet for free is a great way to reduce your expenses because, let’s face it, internet service can be pricey.
Average Cost of Internet Service
The cost of internet service can vary from provider to provider. It really depends on the speed you want and whether or not you have a data cap or are getting an unlimited plan.
The Wall Street Journal (WST) conducted a study in December of 2019 that collected and analyzed information from more than 3,300 different internet service provider bills from customers in all 50 states. The WST found that in households that opted for stand-alone internet service, meaning they did not bundle their internet service with cable or phone service, that the median monthly internet cost was about $66 for 100 megabits per second (Mbps). That adds up to about $792 a year. Customers who bundled their internet service with another service paid on average $143 a month after taxes and fees, which adds up to $1,716 a year.
So, no, internet service is not cheap. But, is it possible to get free internet?
Yes! There are lots of sources that provide free internet access.
Get Free Internet Legally
One thing I’m not going to talk about is how to get free internet illegally. In fact, you definitely want to steer clear of getting free internet illegally in general. That’s just bad juju. And, with so many options that allow you to get free internet legally, there is no reason to go the illegal route.
There are two legal ways to get free internet:
- Free internet at home
- Free internet on the go via free wi-fi
Free Internet at Home
While conducting research for this article, I discovered 5 different ways to get the internet in your home for free.
1. Your Cell Phone Provider
Did you know that several cell phone providers offer a free mobile hotspot feature that lets you share your mobile connection with other devices in your home, like your computer or tablet? When you turn on this service (which can be done in the settings section of your mobile phone), it basically turns your cell phone into a wireless router that you can connect your various devices to, like laptops and tablets.
The first thing you want to do before even turning your hotspot feature on is to call up your cell phone provider and ask if free mobile hotspot access is part of your existing plan. Another thing you will want to think about when using this service is to make sure you don’t have a data cap. If you do, surfing the web using your free hotspot setup can end up not being a free data plan if you go over your data allowance. Also, ask your cell phone provider if using the hotspot feature slows down your internet speeds at all.
2. Free ISP
Free ISP is a great resource for finding free and discounted internet service providers because it lists all the providers in your state along with their current rates, some of which could be a free plan! You just visit their site, and click on your state. If your state doesn’t have any free internet providers listed, don’t despair! Just keep reading, and I’ll share some more great ways to get free internet access with you.
If you just so happen to have a landline and only need the internet here and there, NetZero is a decent option for you. Their free internet service is dial-up, which means it will be slow and not ideal for streaming videos or gaming. It’s also capped at 10 hours a month.
Juno offers a free service that’s the same type of deal that NetZero does. It’s a free dial-up internet service that requires a home phone line and provides you with 10 hours of free internet a month.
FreedomPop is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that offers free wireless internet to all of their customers via SIM card. The amount of WiFi data you can get depends on which of the low-cost plans you chose. However, FreedomPop plans are quite inexpensive when compared to many other cell phone providers out there. An unlimited talk, text, and WiFi data plan will run you only about $55 a month.
Discounted Internet at Home
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced just this week (May 2021) that that the Emergency Broadband Benefit program is available. It’s geared towards helping low-income families get discounted access to internet. Eligible households will get up to $75 a month discounted from their internet bill, and can get a one time discount on a new laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. Households that qualify must meet one of the criteria below:
- Has an income that is at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines
- Participates in assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline
- Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
Free WiFi Sources
Free Wi-Fi access is great because it allows you to pop on the internet while on the go. While free access is great, you do have to be careful and be smart about the content you’re accessing while on a wi-fi free spot. For instance, checking your bank account is probably not the greatest idea.
Here are some of the best ways to get free WiFi:
Public places, like restaurants, coffee shops, your local library, and even doctor’s offices, often offer free wi-fi hotspots to their patrons. Some places may make you purchase an item before they give you the WiFi password, but more often than not, you can connect to their WiFi with your device for free. However, you will typically need to agree to certain terms of service before connecting.
Many government organizations are now providing free WiFi access to local residents who live within a certain range of their buildings. It’s called a municipal wireless network, and while the majority of them are outside the US, some larger cities in the US have them as well. Here’s a complete list of cities and countries that provide municipal wireless networks.
WiFi Finder Tools
Looking for free WiFi near you or while on the go? Check out these different WiFi-finding sites and free internet app options.
WiFi Map is a database app that has a list of 100 million different free WiFi locations. One cool thing about WiFi Map is that it can unlock passwords to public WiFi hotspots. So, let’s say you are near a Starbucks, and they only give you the WiFi password if you make a purchase. WiFi Map will be able to unlock that password for you. And, because WiFi Map is a crowdsourcing app that is dependent on the information its users provide, its WiFi list is constantly growing. Plus, each WiFi listing also has a little bit of info posted, so you can see if other users have had success using that specific WiFi hotspot or not.
Wi-Fi FreeSpot is a website that contains a massive directory of places that offer free wi-fi network organized by state. They also have listings for Europe, Canada, Asia, and more!
According to the Winman website, this app works like the built-in WiFi connection manager on your smartphone, offering you free WiFi hotspots and classifying them based on their quality. Like WiFi Map, Winman is also crowdsourced, so its list of free WiFi networks is constantly growing.
Instabridge is a free internet application designed for smartphones to offer users with free WiFi networks and their respective passwords. Instabridge was initially developed as a way for users to share their home WiFi networks with their friends. This app shows users the nearest places that offer free WiFi access as well as the walking distance to these places.
Keeping Your Computer and Data Safe When Using Free WiFi
While free WiFi access is great, it does come with some risks. For one thing, connecting to public WiFi leaves you vulnerable to hackers or people who are out to steal your private information.
But, I do have some good news for you. There are a few things you can do to protect yourself before you connect to free WiFi:
- Don’t do any file sharing.
- Stick to websites that use HTTPS instead of HTTP.
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your data.
- Don’t allow your device to auto-connect to networks.
- Invest in security software, like Norton, which can protect both your computer and mobile device.
Anyone out there using free internet or WiFI to cut down on expenses? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comment below!
WiFi Finder Tools
|Tool/App||Cool Features||Mobile App Available||Worldwide Locations|
|WiFi Map||Yes – Both Android and IOS||Yes|
|Winman||Yes – Android device |
Also available on Android watches
|Instabridge||Yes – Both Android and IOS||Yes|
Now you know how to get free internet by exploring the options available in your area. There’s a good chance that you can find a free version (or cheap) to snag unlimited internet, and save yourself a ton of money!
Now that we’ve tackled your dreaded internet bill, how about cutting the cord with cable? Learn more about how to cut the cord and save even more money!
A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More