The cost of internet use had continued to rise throughout the years, and currently ranges from $10 per month if you have enough patience to use slower dial-up connections to upwards of $150 each month if you can afford the fastest fiber optic connections. According to CBS News, within just two years, the average cost of broadband increased by 21 percent to about $47.30 per month.
Access to the internet has seemingly become a necessity in today’s world. Whether you are a student working on research projects, a white or blue collar worker, or leisurely perusing the web for a new recipe, access to the internet is indeed essential to performing our daily responsibilities. Being so, as we increasingly rely on the internet to fulfill daily functions, companies continue to raise prices for internet access.
Fortunately, it is possible to get free and legal internet. With this said, free internet does not guarantee fast internet speeds, and there might be hidden charges, but with a little bit of research a few handy tips, it might be worthwhile.
Contrary to common thought, dial-up internet does still exist and will help you save money on your monthly internet bills. If you are looking for a low-cost option, using dial-up and other easily accessible services will help reduce your expenses.
10 Legit Ways to Get Free Internet
You have more options in terms of internet access than you may have previously thought. Some companies provide free or cheap internet plans, but there are other places and ways to snag free internet without having to subscribe to a service.
Part I: Free or Cheap Internet Services
1. All Free ISP
All Free ISP is database that provides a list of cheap internet options and also compares discount internet service providers. This database is filled with free ISP dial up access numbers that you can use based on your location. Just enter your state or area code and select the service most convenient for you.
Everyone On (Connect to Compete) is a national nonprofit directory that works to connect low-income and minority communities to the digital world. Their goal is to provide equitable social and economic opportunities for all groups.
Altogether, Everyone On offers discounted computers and tablets, internet access for as low as $10 a month, and free training courses for those who want to expand their education and learn more about basic digital literacy.
- One resident in applying household who participates in the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and
- With an address in AT&T’s 21-state service area, and
- Without outstanding debt for AT&T fixed Internet service within the last six months or outstanding debt incurred under this program.
FreedomPop provides mobile phone services to customers. Relying on AT&T and Sprint cellular towers to provide service, this service offers free 4G mobile phone services, free wireless internet, and free home broadband.
FreedomPop supplies 500mb of free data every month through a free hotspot device at home or on the go.
- 1-time activation fee of $19.99
- Free 1-month trial includes 2GB of premium data at no charge
- When you sign up, you’ll pick a SIM card or phone that works on AT&T or Sprint’s network.
- You can either use your own phone or buy one from FreedomPop which offers discounted older models or refurbished phones like iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7.
- If you use your own phone, it must be a Sprint locked phone or any unlocked GSM phone.
Requirements to sign up:
- Valid email address
- Valid postal code in a network-covered area. You can check your network coverage here.
- Smartphone that is SIM-unlocked running Android 4.0+ or iOS 7.0+
- Valid payment card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover)
What’s the catch?
- While the service is free, you are limited in terms of how much you can talk, text, and surf the internet.
- If you exceed the free allotment of voice and text, you will not be charged, but if you go over the monthly data limit, the credit card you have placed on file will be charged. Overage rates include: free plan = 1.5p/mb and paid plans = 1p/mb.
Juno is a nationwide internet service provider which is available in more than 8,000 cities in North America. This service offers 10 hours of internet use each month with no contract and other features including email services, an entertainment pack with games and sports, and Norton AntiVirus protection.
- Type in your area code to check if Juno has an access number near you
- Sign up by creating member ID
- Select a service plan
You’ll need a home phone line to use Juno dial-up internet service. After you sign up, Juno will send you a CD with software that you can use to install on your computer.
What’s the catch?
- After you exceed 10 free hours, they contact you to discuss the best plan for your needs.
- Depending upon the Juno access numbers you choose, your location and your calling plan, you may incur toll charges and long distance charges to your bill.
NetZero offers a set of “home Internet” plans and a set of “mobile Internet” plans. The home Internet (NetZero DSL) gives you a fixed wireless router at home that beams signals to any local device, and their mobile Internet (NetZero 4G Mobile Broadband) is portable and will travel with you.
Types and Options
- Dial-up: comes with web-based email with spam and virus protection; “NetZero HiSpeed Accelerated is the latest generation of dial-up Internet access. It accelerates Web browsing using your existing phone jack and modem and gives you the fastest speed you need without the high cost of broadband.”
- Broadband provides speeds up to 100 times faster than dial-up and includes Norton™ AntiVirus Online and a wireless modem with a built-in firewall.
What’s the catch?
- Free plan is only good for 12 months and is not renewable.
- You will need to buy a “Netzero Mobile Broadband device” to qualify.
- The NetZero USB stick is $69.95. Once you insert it into a USB port on your PC or Mac computer, it will solely power that device.
- The NetZero Hotspot costs $129.95 and weights only 4.5 ounces, making it ideal for traveling and remote work, and can provide internet access for up to eight devices.
Free Wifi Spot lists locations that offer Free Wi-Fi high speed wireless internet access to their customers and guests and/or the general public. This site has a directory of locations that offer free wifi state-by-state and in other countries like Europe and Asia.
Aside from large companies and coffee shops like Panera Bread and Starbucks, you can find free wifi spots in airports, RV parks and campgrounds, vacation rental properties, and in motels and resorts.
How to use the site:
- Click the state in which you are seeking wifi
- Search for a free wifi listing
- Input the address you find into Google Maps to find a map of the location
What’s the catch:
- Companies and organizations change policies, so it is best to contact the listed location to verify free internet access before your visit.
Part II: Wireless Hotspots
Wireless hotspots are wireless access points that provide internet access to mobile devices such as your laptop or smartphone when you are away from the office or your home. Typical Wi-Fi hotspot venues include cafes, libraries, airports, and hotels.
Generally, wifi hotspots in public spaces have a hub and spoke configuration that work together to provide internet access. Using a wireless router and a wire, a physical connection is established and then data is able to be transmitted from multiple users.
Here are some ways to access wireless hotspots.
1. Provide your services to neighbors in exchange for free wifi
Simple services like doing yard work or feeding your neighbor’s pets while they’re on vacation might be a good place to start.
2. Municipal Wireless Network
Municipal wireless networks provide people in cities or towns with public access to wifi without any additional equipment. If you’re trying to access this type of network from home, you might need additional tools due to the distance.
The ability to access the internet from any part of the city is indeed an advantage, but if wireless router fails, there is not always another nearby router to aid the problem.
For this reason, many municipal wireless networks use a mesh which is made up of radio transmitters to create signals throughout the city, giving you the ability to connect over a large range of space. Using a physical wire to connect every wireless router to the internet is a large expense that many cities incur.
How to connect:
- Your computer or device will detect network and then you can sign on by placing a checkmark in the “I agree” or “I accept” box.
3. Businesses that offer free wifi
Local coffee shops, airports, hotels, and even amusement parks have free wifi available to customers. In fact, Universal Orlando recently introduced a new app that provides free wifi within all its theme parks.
These wireless access networks are free, promote productivity for businesses and employees with fluid work schedules, aid in emergencies, and benefit many students.
On the other hand, these networks can be unreliable and sometimes slow due. They also don’t block advertisements which can be distracting, and fail to provide adequate security measures. For this reason, it is recommended that you don’t work with confidential information like bank accounts on public networks.
How can you access their free internet?
- Click wifi icon or go to settings
- Check available connections and select the one you’d like to connect to
- Place a checkmark that acknowledges the “Terms of Agreement” or the “I accept” button. Your internet connection is now activated.
4. Public Libraries
Within the past few years, library computer and wifi use has soared. In fact, more than 85% of libraries state that they are often unable to meet the demand for computer usage
Advantages of hanging out in libraries
- Free wifi, free books, free access to information
- Contain other information aside from novels including travel guides, sheet music
- Librarians can order almost any book in the world for you for free
- Access to computers if you don’t already have one
- Get your money’s worth. Forbes says that "public libraries cost $42 per citizen each year to maintain."
Accessing the Internet
- Typically you must have a library card and be in good standing
- Usually doesn’t require any registration or sign-up if you are using your personal computer
- Follow same steps for accessing businesses that offer free wifi
Tips for Practicing Internet Safety
Carefully select network
Verify the name of the network with staff before connecting
Firewalls and File Sharing
If you are using Windows, be sure to turn off file sharing and make the wifi connection as a public network.
On Windows, you can change these settings by going to “Control Panel” then “Network and Sharing Center” and finally, “Change Advanced Sharing Settings”.
On Mac, open up “System Preferences” and find the Sharing icon. After that, unclick the checkbox next to “File Sharing”.
Use a VPN
Virtual private networks (VPN) encrypt traffic between your device and the VPN server, meaning it’s more difficult for others to access your data.
If you don’t have a VPN setup, SecurityKiss is free and offers VPN access with data which is limited to 300MB/day.
Be careful when making updates
Keep your devices up to date with the latest versions, but don’t do this on public Wifi.
Forget the Network
Be sure to log off any services you signed into and then tell your device to forget the network which prevents your device from automatically connecting to the network.
For Mac: Go to System Preferences, go to “Network”, and under the Wi-Fi section click “Advanced”. Then uncheck "Remember networks this computer has joined."
For Windows: Go to “Control Panel”, then “Network and Sharing Center” and click on the network name. Click on "Wireless Properties" and then uncheck "Connect automatically when this network is in range”.
While these are only a few ways to find free wifi, there are many options available to you online and in public settings including discounted services and wireless hotspots. Using some of the tips listed for practicing good internet hygiene, give one of these options a try if you want to save money on your monthly internet expenses.
Free internet comes in three different forms: mobile hotspots, free public wifi, and a home dial-up. A combination of these three mediums can make it possible to never pay for internet again if you are just doing some light work like checking email, posting to Facebook, and general browsing. These free internet service providers provide an easy way for anyone to access the web for free. But if you wish to use more data that require faster connection speeds or you want your own private network to protect your personal information, you may also have it by upgrading your internet connection plan.