Many public establishments offer free wifi, even if it’s not advertised. You may also be able to get free wi-fi in the comforts of your home without spending a dime. But when using free wi-fi, there are some precautions you want to take to protect your personal information.
Keep reading to learn more about options that may be available to you along with best practices when using free wi-fi in public spaces.
How to Get Free Internet Access in Public
Before you dive into this comprehensive list, check with your internet provider (if you have one) to determine if they offer free public hotspots to their customers. Some additional free public options:
Dreading that layover or extended wait before boarding your flight? Hundreds of airports throughout the nation allow you to connect to free wi-fi to keep you occupied. To find out if the airport(s) you use are on the list, check their website. You can also use this directory as a point of reference.
2. Automotive Repair Facilities and Dealerships
The thought of sitting around waiting for your vehicle to be serviced can be dreadful, but it helps when automotive repair facilities and dealerships offer free wi-fi. You can bring your laptop along and catch up on a few assignments or get through the workday, interrupted. That way, you won’t have to spend hours scrolling Facebook or Instagram.
Does your favorite bookstore have a designated area for reading or working? It may be worthwhile to inquire about wi-fi as many establishments, like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, have it available for customers.
4. Educational Campuses
Most colleges, universities, and technical schools offer free wi-fi to their students and guests while on-campus. So, whether you’re there for a class or appointment, rest assured that you’ll be able to connect at the tap of a fingertip.
5. Coffee Shops
Coffee shops are a great place to unwind or get caught up on pressing tasks while sipping a cup of Joe or one of your favorite caffeinated beverages. What’s even better is that most offer free wi-fi, so you won’t have to hook up to your phone’s hotspot to get stuff done.
6. Commercial Buses and Trains
Planning to take a long-distance trip via bus or train in the near or distant future? Megabus, Greyhound, and Amtrak offer free internet access for the duration of your ride. But if you’re not using one of these options, you may want to reach out to your transportation provider to see if they offer free wi-fi as well.
7. Co-working Spaces
If you’re a freelancer or small business owner and you need a space that fosters productivity and offers free wi-fi, consider renting a coworking space. While you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to work on the premises, you won’t ever have to worry about shaky connections. And co-working spaces also boast a host of other amenities that their tenants can access for free.
8. Fast Food Restaurants
Fast food restaurants make it convenient to grab a bite while on the go, but maybe you want to sit in the lobby and enjoy your meal. The good news is that some national restaurant chains offer free internet access in select locations. These include Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, So it may be worthwhile to bring your laptop along and put it to good use once you’ve consumed your meal.
9. Fitness Centers
While you probably won’t be checking emails or catching up on work during your workout, it may be worthwhile to have free internet access to preserve your data while streaming your favorite tunes. And if your gym happens to have a cafe space with ample seating, you can bring your laptop along.
10. Grocery Stores
Unless there’s a sitting area to enjoy meals or drinks they prepare, you probably won’t need to connect to the internet while in the grocery store. But some grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Sam’s Club, and Publix, offer free internet access to their customers to make their shopping experience more enjoyable.
Select hotel chains, including Marriott, offer free wi-fi in their lobby and guest rooms. A password may be required, so it’s best to check with the front guest staff before attempting to get connected.
12. Medical Facilities
When you’re spending time with a loved one who’s hospitalized or waiting to be seen by a medical provider, ask the staff about free internet access. More and more medical facilities are jumping on board with providing free wi-fi hotspots to patients and their guests, even if it’s not advertised.
If you’re hanging out at a museum enjoying all the exhibits, chances are you won’t need internet access. But when it’s time to head to your next destination, assuming you’re in a city you’re unfamiliar with, you can hop on to find out more information you need about the next destination. Or you can even use the GPS on your phone to find out how far you have to travel and what your transportation options are.
14. Public Libraries
Public libraries are another place where you can jump on and off the internet whenever it’s convenient for you. And they offer plenty of workspaces, so you can finish up an assignment, conduct research, or get caught up on your favorite television shows online without using your smartphone’s data.
15. Public Transportation
Do you commute to and from work by train or bus? If you haven’t already done so, check with the local transit authority to determine if they have free wi-fi hotspots onboard.
How to Get Free Internet Access at Home
If you’re currently paying for internet service, check with your provider to see if you’re on the best plan. Some offer internet service free of charge if you bundle it up with cable and telephone service, which means you can keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket.
Not an option for you? Keep reading for a few alternatives that may work out:
FreedomPop offers free mobile and high-speed internet services to individuals in select locations. You can determine if you qualify by submitting the form found on their webpage. You’ll be asked to input your zip, name, email address, phone number, and LifeLine Qualification. The latter includes SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, Federal Pension Benefit, and Federal Public Housing Assistance.
There are no contracts to sign, and you can cancel your enrollment in a free FreedomPop plan at any time. You can check for availability in your area here.
Juno is another provider that extends free internet access to consumers in the comforts of their own home. When you sign-up, you’ll receive 10 hours of free dial-up internet access per month, along with the ability to create an unlimited number of email addresses. To learn more or get started, visit their website.
Similar to Juno, NetZero also offers 10 hours of free dial-up internet access per month. You can explore the service or sign up online to get started.
Instead of spending time trying to figure out where you can get free internet access, use this comprehensive directory from WiFi Free Spot to do the legwork for you. To use this online tool, select your state from the homepage and a list of results by city (or county) will appear.
Another option: use the hotspot on your mobile device if you have an unlimited or generous data plan.
Best Practices When Using Public Wi-Fi
While free internet access can save you money each month, it’s important to be aware of the risks and protect yourself so your device isn’t infected and your personal information isn’t compromised. Some helpful tips:
- Always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so you won’t leave a cyber footprint when using the internet over a public network.
- Avoid using wi-fi on public networks that aren’t password protected as many are ripe with viruses and hackers.
- Connect manually to the network and forget it in your system once you’re offline so your device doesn’t automatically connect when you’re in the area.
- Disable wi-fi and lock your device when not in use so hackers can’t take a cheap shot at you by swiping away your valuable data or personal information.
- Don’t conduct personal business over public networks.
- Install antivirus software to ward off viruses and malware attacks.
- Perform routine updates on your system as doing so also keeps the malware away.
- Refrain from sharing files between devices when you’re on public wi-fi as they can be intercepted by cyber thieves.
- Use secured websites with the ‘https’ designation at the beginning of the web address.
The Bottom Line
Free internet access can make your life easier while on the go. But be sure you are aware of the risks and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your device from a cyber attack.