You may find yourself needing WiFi services now that you are working from home or your child is attending school from home. If you don’t have a regular internet service already in place, you may be waiting for a while before you are able to get one installed.
But you do have options. You can find map and links to public wifi hotspots here and here.
Here are some ways to stay online:
AT&T customers (including prepaid customers) can use a hotspot that is included in some of the more expensive plans. But the company is also offering free WiFi access to everyone at its public WiFi hotspots, by looking for “att-wifi” or “attwifi” on your device’s list of networks.
AT&T also has a program that offers internet access to low-income families who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If you are a new Access customer you can receive two months of service when you order by April 30, 2020. AT&T’s Access program has been expanded to include families participating in Head Start or the National School Lunch Program.
Charter Communications is also offering public WiFi to its customers. Look for “Spectrum WiFi” or “Cable WiFi” on your device or go to Spectrum website for a locator.
If you do not have internet and you are an educator (K-12 and college or university) or a student you are eligible for free broadband and WiFi connection for 60 days. Call 1-844-488-8395 to enroll or visit the website for information. For current Charter Communications customers, late fees are waived and services will not be terminated (for an undetermined amount of time).
Until further notice, Comcast’s Xfinity will offer all internet users access for the next 60 days. Search for “xfinitywifi” network and download the Xfinity WiFi Hotspots app, or look for the nearest connection on Xfinity’s website. Comcast is pausing their data plans for customers, with no disconnections or late fees, and every customer will have access to unlimited data at no charge. Non-Xfinity users will need to accept Terms and Conditions to access the network when requested to receive the free unlimited access.
Suddenlink and Optimum will provide 60 days of free internet service to households with students from K-12 or college if you do not have a home internet plan. You can cancel the service after two months or continue service by paying for the plan.
Cox is providing two months of free internet service through their Connect2Compete service until May 15, 2020. Families with K-12 students who qualify for the National School Lunch Program, SNAP and/or TANF; those who receive Tenant-Based Vouchers, Project-Based Vouchers or Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA); or those who live in Public Housing. You can cancel the service after two months or continue as a paying customer.
Other places to find free wifi
Your public library
Many public libraries offer free WiFi that extends to their parking areas. Customers using the library WiFi must abide by some version of this Technology Use Policy for Library Customers. Although libraries have closed at this time, some have elected to keep their WiFi access available to guests who park in their lots, such as this library in South Carolina. Call or email your public library to find out if they are doing the same.
Your auto dealership
If you recently bought a new vehicle from a dealership, you may have access to free data. Buick, for instance, is offering 3 GB or 3 months of in-vehicle data to customers to keep families connected to online education and to loved ones. GM also offers free WiFi and OnStar to its customers for three months. You don’t have to sit in the car to do homework, either – the WiFi works from 50 yards away.
Call your car dealership to see if they have enabled any free services for its customers. Some local dealerships are also allowing its local customers to access free WiFi from their parking lot.
Fast food and coffee shops
Although many restaurants and drive-through beverage shops have closed, some have continued to serve curbside. Businesses that usually offer internet access include Starbucks, McDonalds, Walmart, Panera Bread, Dunkin’ Donuts, Buffalo Wild Wings, and the Apple Store. Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth a call to your local restaurant. Many still offer internet use to customers, through an app or by agreeing to terms at the website login. If you are a customer, call and ask if this perk is still available at curbside.
Whole Foods provides an awesome and free WiFi connection, as does Publix, Kroger and Sam’s Club. Your shopping times might be limited, but call and ask your store manager if WiFi is available outside the brick and mortar store.
Cities with WiFi
New York City never sleeps, and as a result it keeps the internet on. Other cities like Mt. Airy, North Carolina have free WiFi spots through local internet providers. If you aren’t sure, call your local chamber of commerce for information.
What? Yes, many public parks are plugged in and offer free WiFi. Here’s a list to get you started.
Visitors bureaus and welcome centers, highway rest stops
Maybe you don’t typically visit those rest stops that are located near your home, but they usually offer free WiFi to weary travelers. I have stopped in many welcome centers and rest stops to charge my laptop and catch up on assignments.
A word of caution
If you are using public WiFi, practice safety. Do not enter any sensitive information and always look for secure sites (https). Don’t use the “connect automatically” option, as this can expose information. And enable the two-factor identifier on frequently used sites so you can avoid hacks.
For more Living on the Cheap articles:
- Avoid scams during a crisis
- Stay connected with Skye and other online hang out spots
- How to simplify your life
- Streaming services offering free trials
- Animal webcams you can’t stop watching