11 Legal Ways to Get Free Internet at Home and in Public

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Tired of paying $50 to $75 a month for internet access.

Unlimited internet access doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. If you do it right, you can even get it for free. It’s legal, it’s easy, and we’re going to show you how to make it happen.

When you open an internet account with an internet service provider, you’ll probably pay a low introductory price for a few months. Then, after the promotional period is over, your obligation will jump up to about $60 a month. Sometimes it will be more, sometimes less, but if you’re trying to save some money and lower down your expenses, paying anything for internet might seem like a burden.

Free Internet at Home

Getting free internet at home isn’t impossible, and it’s not illegal – at least not the ways that we’re going to share with you. Read on for the best ways to nab free internet!

FreedomPop

FreedomPop is a mobile and internet service that offers several plans, and some of them are 100% free. All you have to do is go to their website, order a free SIM card, and start browsing. Since you will access the internet through the SIM card, you will have to access it on your phone. However, you can connect your phone to your laptop via Bluetooth and use the phone as a hotspot. That way, you can browse on your computer for free up to the limit on the SIM.

FreedomPop has a home internet plan as well, and it includes 500MB per month for free when you purchase a FreedomPop mobile hotspot. There’s even a free 30-day trial that gives you 2GB of data on their premier plan. After the 30 days, you can pick a plan or downgrade to free, which gives you 200MB per month.

Now, 200MB or even 500MB isn’t a lot. You won’t be able to stream Netflix 24/7, but here’s the thing – you can sign up, use your own phone, get a decent data plan for about $20 a month with no contracts and nothing to sign. You’ll get what you need for a fraction of the price of other mobile plans, and you can upgrade any time.

NetZero

Here’s a blast from the past – it’s dial-up internet! But hey, it’s free, so you can’t complain too much! NetZero also offers accelerated dial-up internet, which gives you speeds that are five times faster than their basic plan (this is better if you’re looking at graphics or doing anything more than just checking your email and Facebook). You’ll get 10 hours of unlimited browsing per month with the free plan, and they offer thousands of access numbers nationwide.

NetZero also has a mobile data plan that gives you 200MB per month for free, and if you do decide to bump up to a better plan, their rates are very affordable.

All Free ISP

All Free ISP is an online database that helps you find cheap or free internet access in your area. All you have to do is go to the site, select your state, type in your area code or zip code, and see what comes up. From there, you just have to click on the ISP you want to check out and follow their instructions to get free internet.

Most free services are dial-up, but there are plenty of cheap ones too – definitely worth checking out.

Juno

Juno offers 10 hours of free dial-up internet per month, but if you choose to pay and go with broadband, it’s still pretty cheap compared to most plans. Like most of the free internet plans we talk about in this article, Juno offers a no-frills plan that doesn’t give you a lot of options. If you need to call support, you’ll have to pay extra because that’s not included.

Use your phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot

If you have an unlimited plan on your phone, you can turn it into a Wi-Fi hotspot and connect your laptop via mobile access and not worry about running down the minutes, hours, or megabytes on your plan.

Access your phone’s settings, go to your network and internet settings, tap mobile hotspot, and connect. At that point, you will be able to connect your computer to the phone. Just locate your phone’s Wi-Fi network, enter the password (it will be given to you when you set up the hotspot), and connect.

EveryoneOn.org

EveryoneOn is a budget internet provider that has partnered with other ISPs to provide their subscribers with the lowest-cost internet access possible. Some plans are as low as $9.95 per month – and it’s not dial-up.

There are different requirements for each provider, but if you are a low-income household, or if you are a student, this is a great way to get solid, reliable internet for a very low price.

Best Free Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

Accessing public Wi-Fi is a great way to get internet for free. Even better – public Wi-Fi is usually very fast.

Here are some great options for public Wi-Fi access:

1.     Your local public library

If you don’t have one yet, apply for a library card, and you’ll have the ability to use their Wi-Fi connection and, often, their computers as well.

2.     Café or Coffee Shops.

Coffee shops like Starbucks (and others) are a great option for fast, free Wi-Fi. Depending on the city you’re in, it might be a bit crowded, but often the signal is strong enough that you can sit outside and get access.

3.     Book stores.

Ditto on book stores – and most of them don’t mind if you park yourself there for a little while. You probably won’t have as much competition as you will in a coffee shop, either.

4.     Restaurants.

You’ll likely have to buy something, but most restaurants have guest Wi-Fi for their customers. These days, even McDonald’s and Subway have guest Wi-Fi, so you don’t have to break the bank.

5.     Wi-Fi Map App

The Wi-Fi Map app is a great way to locate free Wi-Fi wherever you are. Download the free app to your smartphone and avoid cellular charges by using local hotspots.

6.     Airports

Most airports offer free Wi-Fi, either through their own network or through providers like Xfinity or Boingo. Of course, we don’t all hang out in airports, but if you do, it’s an option. To access these free internet options, you may have to watch an ad or two in exchange.

7.     Xfinity Hotspots

Xfinity Hotspots are pretty much everywhere these days. If you have a cable subscription with Comcast or Xfinity, you get 40 free hours of Wi-Fi per month. If you don’t subscribe, you can purchase hourly, daily, or weekly passes and they do offer a free trial so for the first week.

8.     Wi-Fi Free Spot

With wififreespot.com, you can find places in your area that offer free Wi-Fi. Just go to the site and click on your state and you’ll have a listing of hundreds of hotspots at your disposal.

How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi

One of the main concerns and drawbacks to public Wi-Fi is that it’s not always secure. You just can’t be 100 percent sure of how safe the networks are, so it’s always a good idea to make sure you are protected.

Here are some tips for staying safe while using public Wi-Fi:

Verify the Network

No public Wi-Fi is bullet-proof, but if you stick to the big providers, you have a better chance of staying safe. To verify that you’re accessing a legitimate connection, look carefully at the network name and make sure it matches what the establishment is offering. If you’re not sure, ask an employee to confirm the network name and Wi-Fi password.

Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

VPNs are essential if you’re using a public connection. A VPN will shield you from malicious intent, making you invisible to hackers and others on the network. If they don’t know you’re there, they can’t do any harm. HotSpot Shield is a good one, and it has a free version.

Use Antivirus Software

Even with a VPN, there is a chance that you may be susceptible to viruses, adware, and malware while using public Wi-Fi. Download and install the software on all your devices and scan frequently. MalwareBytes offers a free version that will run on any device.

Turn off Auto-Connection

Auto-connect may be convenient, but it’s not the safest way to go. Plus, if the network has been compromised or hijacked since you last used it, you may be vulnerable to the hack. Your safest bet is to connect manually each time.

Always Check ‘Forget Network’ After Using Public Wi-Fi

Go into your Wi-Fi settings and tap “forget this network” after each time you log off. This way, your device won’t automatically connect.

Don’t Perform Financial Transactions Over Public Networks

Checking your bank account or shopping over public Wi-Fi is not recommended. Even if you are shopping on a secure site, you may be visible to malicious individuals over the Wi-Fi connection.

Questionable or Illegal Ways to Get Free Wi-Fi

There are lots of ways to get online for free, but not all of them are ethical or even legal. Here are some options we urge you not to explore:

Wi-Fi Piggybacking (AKA Stealing Your Neighbors Wi-Fi)

Wi-Fi piggybacking, as it is called, is the act of accessing another person or entity’s Wi-Fi without their express permission. In some countries, people have been prosecuted and fined heavily for this, making it doubly important to ensure your Wi-Fi use is on the up-and-up.

Cheap, Low-Cost Internet Options

If any of these free options don’t work for you, but you are still looking to save money on internet access, here are some cheap, low-cost ISP options you can try:

Cheap Internet Plans

Many ISPs offer bottom-line plans that can save you a lot of money. You may have to compromise a little on speed and data limits, but the savings are huge.

AT&T DSL

AT&T DSL is a great option for a lot of reasons – it’s only $10 per month, there is no installation fee, and you also have access to more than 30,000 hotspots across the country included in your plan. There are data limits, but they are pretty generous, all things considered, with anywhere from 150GB to 250GB per month included.

CenturyLink

CenturyLink offers contract-free connectivity with excellent speeds for around $45 – $55 per month. Your price is locked in for life, even though you don’t have to sign a contract. So, as long as you keep your plan, you’re good to go for that rate.

Check With Your Local Provider for Bundles

Your local internet service provide may offer some pretty good rates on internet service, so it’s always worthwhile to see what you can get. Some may also offer low-income or student plans for a heavily discounted rate.

Low-Income Internet Plans

Many service providers offer lower-tier plans for low-income customers. Check with your local service provider; AT&T, Mediacom, and Xfinity are all good choices here.

Final Thoughts on Free Internet

In conclusion, free internet is not a unicorn! There are lots of ways you can get connected, even if you can’t afford to pay. With access to the internet, you have the power to change your life, connect with others, stay informed, learn new skills, improve your health, and maybe even find work online to boost your income.

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GP

Hi, I'm GP. A personal finance expert with a mission to help Entirely Money readers break free of money worries. Combining a finance-focused education background (B.S. in Finance and MBA with Finance focus) with over 15 years of personal and corporate finance experience to help you achieve your financial best life!