Now that so many of us have smartphones with data plans, you find yourself paying for your cell phone data and home internet. The average home internet bill is $64 a month and climbing as internet service providers across the country continue to increase their bandwidth speeds as households stream cable tv and store everything “in the cloud.” However, even with the increase in internet rates, there are ways to still get free internet service.
Two Secrets You Must Know About Free Internet Service
Your free internet probably won’t be fast enough to watch Netflix on multiple devices at the same time, but you’ll still be able to surf the web, answer emails, and explore online side hustles.
In addition, most free internet options have monthly usage caps; similar to your monthly smartphone data plan.
If you’re okay with potentially slower data speeds and monthly usage caps, getting free internet service is an excellent way to save $50 every month, which is always fun to do.
Where to Get Free Internet Service
Because of wifi hotspots, it’s easier than ever to get free internet. The only catch is you need to go to a public place to enjoy the free wifi. This might be ok if you only need to use the internet a few hours a week or you live in a major metro area and can walk down the street to a cafe.
But, it’s also possible to get free internet at home too.
This section offers nine ways to get free internet service every month. Because there isn’t a true “free lunch,” there might be a one-time equipment purchase required.
FreedomPop is a wireless internet and cellular service provider. They offer extremely affordable talk, text, and data plans for their customers, that actually starts at $0.00 per month! Now, keep in mind the free plan only offer 10 minutes of talk, 10 text messages per month and 25MB of data per month.
To understand how much 25MB of data is per month, this is the equivelant to checking about 10-20 emails per month (no data) and about 5-10 webpages per day.
However, if you are willing to pay just a few bucks more per month, you can increase your talk, text and data.
|1 GB High-Speed
|4 GB High-Speed
|10 GB High-Speed
Whether you go with the free plan or any of the above plans, you’re still saving a ton of money as compared to the larger well known carriers.
Public WiFi Hotspots
Many restaurants, stores, and public places offer free wifi. While many businesses offer free wifi in anticipation that you’ll make a purchase, no purchase is necessary to use their internet. But, the cashier might begin badgering you to either make a purchase or leave to open up the table for another patron.
When looking for free wifi hotspots, consider these places first:
- Panera Bread
- Shopping malls
- Public parks in major cities
- Libraries and community centers
Find Your Closest WiFi Hotspot With Wi-Fi-FreeSpot
Wi-Fi-FreeSpot is a running database of free wifi hotspots across the world. They list the obvious places like Starbucks or your local mall and also the less obvious businesses too. In my own small town of 8,000 residents, Wi-Fi-FreeSpot lists two additional places I never knew offered free wifi.
While you might be expected to make a purchase to enjoy the free wifi when it’s at a restaurant or coffee shop, the price can still be cheaper than your regular monthly bill. And if you like to socialize and meet new friends, going to a public place can be a fun way to interact with others to build a human connection while you surf the web.
Or, you can always type “wifi hotspots near me” into Google too.
Before the days of unlimited home internet, we used to receive CDs with free internet minutes in the mail. While Juno no longer sends CDs in the mail, they still offer 10 hours of free dial-up internet access each month. That’s a far cry from the one hour of free internet we used to get from them 20 years ago.
If you only need home internet for basic correspondence and browsing, it’s worth considering Juno. Keep in mind, you’ll need an active home phone number to dial Juno’s server with.
NetZero also offers 10 hours of free dial-up internet access. The one downside is that NetZero is only compatible with PC and mobile devices. Mac owners will need to consider using Juno or another internet provider instead of NetZero.
To get 20 hours of free internet service, you can signup with both Juno and NetZero and switch to the other when your monthly allowance is used up.
Like Juno, you need an active home phone number so your internet modem can dial the NetZero server to access the internet.
All Free ISP
Another easy way to find free internet providers near you is with the All Free ISP free internet search engine. You only need to enter your state of residence or area code to look for free and cheap internet plans in your city. The two most prevalent choices will be Juno and NetZero, but you might see another option as well.
Your Local Library
Most public libraries offer free internet from either their desktop computers or wifi network. You might have to apply for a library card to log into the network, but you can also borrow great books to read in your spare time too.
I periodically go to my own public library to use their free wifi hotspot. It’s quicker than my home internet which is a definite thumbs up when I need a change of scenery to work distraction-free. Each session is only one hour, but since I bring my own device I can continually renew the session and have worked in the library all day sometimes because of internet outages at home.
Ask Your Neighbor or Landlord
If your neighbor or landlord has internet access, they might be willing to share their internet with you. When you’re too far away from their router to get a reliable signal, you’ll need to invest in a wifi extender. Simply plug into a wall outlet between their router and where you will sit to normally access internet.
After linking the extender to their internet, it will begin repeating the signal and will be strong enough to surf the web and stream videos.
Before buying an extender you will want to review your local laws and the internet service provider terms and conditions to make sure you can legally use a wifi extender. This option might make more sense if you’re renting a part of the landlord’s house or you live in an on-property guest house and cannot get your own separate internet line installed.
Your Current Internet Provider
While many households are cutting the cord by ditching cable tv and landline phone service to save money each month, bundling your internet, phone, and cable can occasionally be cheaper.
Ask your current internet provider if they offer internet bundles. You might have to downgrade your internet speed, but they might be willing to waive your internet fee if you subscribe to other services.
If you pursue this option, be wary of introductory rate offers that expire after several months and the provider begins charging you for internet again. It is possible to avoid these marketing gimmicks with Trim Financial Manager, a free program that continually monitors your internet provider’s promotional offers to make sure you never overpay for internet and phone access.
If you live in select California communities, you might be eligible for free internet service with the School2Home initiative. Some families won’t qualify for free internet but can get discounted internet for only $10 a month through national internet providers including AT&T and Frontier.
Upgrade to an Unlimited Data Plan
Unlimited cell phone data is back with many cellular networks. By upgrading to an unlimited plan that allows mobile hotspot capability, you can create your own free wifi hotspot. But, your speed and data usage can still be restricted when you’re in hotspot mode.
Cell phone plans regularly change, but here are the current policies for the largest networks:
- AT&T: Unlimited 3G mobile hotspot for $35 per month
- Sprint: Unlimited 3G mobile hotspot for $60 per month
- T-Mobile: Unlimited 3G mobile hotspot for $90 per month
- Verizon: 25GB of 5G LTE and then unlimited 3G mobile hotpsot for $45 per month
Some carriers also include free subscriptions to premium streaming networks like HBO, Hulu, Disney Plus and Netflix when you have an unlimited plan. As long as you’re happy watching this programming on your phone, upgrading to an unlimited data plan can save you money in more ways than one.
Having used this option to get free internet in the past to save a few bucks, I will tell you that using your phone as a mobile hotspot on a regular basis degrades the battery life and you will need to replace your phone sooner because the battery won’t hold a charge for more than a few hours.
Bonus Tip: Instead of putting your old phone in a desk drawer until the world ends, sell your phone for cash while it still has some material value remaining. I don’t know about you, but money is more valuable than a phone I never plan on using again.
Low Cost Internet
When 10 hours of free dial-up or 500 MB isn’t enough each month, you might also qualify for a discounted internet plan. These plans usually offer higher speeds and unlimited service, and they’re still affordable enough that these options are cheaper than buying a double shot espresso each time you go to Starbucks to use their free wifi.
The mission of EveryoneOn is to provide home internet access to the 75 million Americans that currently don’t have internet at home. This site is supported by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Connect2Compete initiative that partners with national internet service providers to provide fast, reliable home internet for $9.95 a month.
While Connect2Compete isn’t free, you can get the same internet service for a fraction of the cost. To qualify for these discounted internet plans, you must meet the three following requirements:
- Have at least one child eligible or enrolled in the National School Lunch Program
- Not subscribed to home internet in the last 90 days
- No outstanding bills or unreturned equipment
Access from AT&T is one of the cheapest home internet plans for low-income families. Plans start at $5 per month and you can get speeds up to 3 megabits per second which is enough to do some basic video streaming on one device at a time.
Besides the unlimited home wifi internet service, you also get complimentary access to the AT&T wifi hotspot network that lets you access paid wifi hotspots for free.
To qualify, at least one person in your family must be eligible for federal SNAP benefits and live in the 21 state area where AT&T offers wireline internet service.
If you’re privileged to be served by Comcast, you can get fast, reliable, and free internet at home with Internet Essentials. Simply sign up and pay $9.95 a month and then enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and you will get your service for FREE.
PCs for People
PCs for People offers unlimited Sprint 4G LTE mobile broadband for $15 month with their entry level plan. As a national carrier, there’s a good chance you live inside Sprint’s 4G LTE coverage area.
Because the mobile coverage is unlimited, you can take your hotspot everywhere you go and downsize your smartphone data plan to offset the $15 monthly subscription fee. With this service, you might spend less than before because you get unlimited internet for $15 a month. And, multiple devices can connect at once.
Frontier Lifeline Program
Frontier offers dial-up internet at a very low cost and varies depending on where you live. You can either have landline phone service or standalone internet service to qualify for this discount internet program. Eligibility requirements will vary by state, but you must qualify for the Federal Lifeline program as a general rule of thumb.
CenturyLink Internet Basics
CenturyLink Internet Basics gives you internet speeds up to 100Mbps for $50 per month. You must meet all of the four requirements to qualify for Internet Basics service:
- Reside in CenturyLink service area
- Not subscribed to CenturyLink internet service
- Do not have an unpaid CenturyLink bill or unreturned equipment
- Follow Lifeline or TAP phone service guidelines
It’s also possible to get discount home phone access with CenturyLink too if you still need a home phone for your family.
By itself, Karma isn’t a free wifi service because you have to pay a monthly fee, but you they do offer the following plans:
- $10/month for 1GB Data
- $30/month for 5GB Data
- $50/month for 10GB Data
In order to use the Karma data, you will need to purchase a Karma hotspot device for $60.
Safely Using Free WiFi
Free public wifi used to be a novelty a few years ago that only a few restaurants, airports, and hotels offered. Now, it’s becoming virtually commonplace. While free internet is convenient, you need to be careful what you do on free wifi networks to protect your sensitive personal information.
While most people use free wifi for honest purposes, identity thieves with some advanced computer skills can potentially hack into your computer, phone, and tablet and steal your personal information without your knowledge.
If you don’t have internet at home, you might have no choice but to use free wifi to access your bank information, file your taxes, and make an Amazon purchase where you need to enter your credit or debit card information to pay for the goods. Using your friend’s home wifi network or your work internet might not be an option at the moment, so public wifi is your only choice.
With millions of free wifi hotspots worldwide, the odds of having your personal information stolen is relatively low but it only takes once and it can happen when you least expect it.
That’s why it’s so important to take the following precautions:
Verify the WiFi Server Name With the Cashier
If there are multiple wifi networks available, verify the correct hotspot name with the cashier. Computer hackers might name their personal hotspot to closely resemble the legitimate wifi hotspot hoping an unassuming customer will click on it.
For example, the correct hotspot network to join is “Panera” but you might also see an option for “Panera1.” Some businesses offer multiple networks so a single network doesn’t get overloaded and so Panera1 could very well be a legit network. Regardless, it’s always better to ask and be safe than assume and get scammed.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Whether you connect to the internet with a phone, computer, or tablet, you really should always connect to a free network with a virtual private network service like NordVPN. Using a VPN network encrypts your internet activity and makes it extremely difficult for scammers to steal your personal information.
If you use free wifi hotspots on a regular basis, a VPN is an absolute must to safely use public wifi for less than $3 per month.
Only Visit Secure Websites
Most websites are transitioning to using “https://” instead of “https://” for additional security, but not every site has yet. With Google Chrome, you can tell if the site your visiting uses https encryption or not because you’ll see a green padlock and the word “Secure” beside it.
If you don’t see that icon, be careful where you click on the site as it can be a phishing scam. Browsers also block certain sites they know are prone to phishing scams as well and you have to click a second box to visit these select unsecured sites.
Disable Your File Sharing Functions
Many devices automatically enable sharing functions that instantly transfer documents to the cloud or your friend’s device. This can be a backdoor way to access your personal data if you accidentally click a button to enable sharing with a stranger.
Turn Off WiFi When Not In Use
Finally, turn off your wifi router when you’re not using the internet. Not only will you save battery power, but a hacker can’t get into your computer if it’s not connected to the internet.
Free internet comes in three different forms: home dial-up, mobile hotspots, and free public wifi. A combination of these three mediums can make it possible to never pay for internet again, but you might have to pay for an upgraded plan if you need to use more data, require faster connection speeds or you want your own private network to protect your personal information.