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How to Get Free WiFi Internet Access


WiFi is good, but Free WiFi is better

You may be asking "Can WiFi be truly free?" Well... this depends on what "free" means to you. You may end up having to drive to a place that offers free WiFi or you may need to purchase a long range WiFi Antenna like this one. This article explains how to get WiFi internet without paying an internet provider for it, but does not take into account your time spent, equipment cost, gas mileage, etc. 

Things you can do at a Free WiFi Hotspot

This internet will function much like your regular internet with the exception that it may be "locked down" for your protection. Some free WiFi hotspots will disable your ability to use email or view offensive or secure web sites. These restrictions are determined at the discretion of the owner of the site. Restrictions aside, you should be able to listen to internet radio, browse or surf the web, download files, and chat with friends.  

Top Fee WiFi Hotspot Locations

The best places to check for free WiFi are locations where the general public is welcome. Plazas, convention centers, sports centers, bookstores, supermarkets, cafes, coffee shops, libraries, colleges, universities & surrounding areas, hotels, motels resorts, RV parks, town hall, vacation rentals, and restaurants are some good places to check for free WiFi internet.

  1. Local Library - Unlike most other WiFi hotspots, libraries exist to further your education and communications abilities, whereas most businesses are trying to lure you into buying something by offering free WiFi. Remember, it is not truly free if you have to buy something first.

  2. City Parks and Plazas - In an effort to attract more people to parks, many cities are offering free wifi in the park. Parks host many events such as concerts, carnivals, other special events where Wifi internet access is becoming a necessity. Easy to access and open to all, the park a great place to get connected. 

  3. Starbuck Coffee Stores (company-owned) - There are no sign-up agreements to accept or time usage limitations to worry about. With cozy couches and chairs, along with plug-in outlets for your laptop, Starbucks Coffee is one of our top choices for free Wifi..

  4. McDonalds - is now offering free WiFi to their customers at more than 11,500 participating restaurants. To get connected, you must use the network called "Wayport_Access" from the available networks list on your device. After opening your internet browser you must agree to McDonalds terms before connecting. Devices that do not have an Internet browser, like a WiFi Internet Radio, will not be able to connect for this reason. Find a participating McDonald’s Wi-Fi Hotspot near you by clicking here.

Other Notable locations are:
  • Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream 
  • FedEx Shipping Offices (more info)
  • Barnes-and-Noble (more info
  • Almost any nearby hotel or RV park

Programs to find free WiFi hotspots

The Internet provides a rich field of useful free programs and sites that help you locate your nearest free WiFi hotspot. You can try entering the key words "free + local + wifi + hotspots" into Google for the best results. Adding the key word "software" to the search will give you results on programs that you can use without an Internet connection.

- Listed below are some helpful tools from the internet for finding free Wifi. 

  • Choose sites that are using "Infrastructure" mode. Beware of sites that use "Ad hoc" or "person to person" mode, as they might be a trap setup by someone nearby with a laptop. This person may be attempting to access your private files such as pictures and credit card information.

  • If you are using the free hotspot to do banking or private credit card transactions, then we recommend that you setup a VPN network. This will give you a layer of protection. There is also special hotspot software on the internet that you can use for added protection. Basically a good rule of thumb is to not do anything on the internet that you would not mind doing with a stranger looking over your shoulder. It is possible, with enough effort, for the owner of the hotspot to view all information that is sent and received over their network.

  • Some free WiFi hotspots will block email and various web sites. The owner of the hotspot will determine its parameters. Most every hotspot will be setup a little different.

  • Unfortunately, most free WiFi hotspots do not offer tech support if you have trouble connecting. This is why it is free. Free WiFi is usually just another way to attract people and is not a real priority to most businesses that offer it. If you need help, it is unlikely that common workers will know how to answer your question. Consider the free WiFi "As-Is" and nothing more. It is hard to get your money back when the service is free.

  • Be courteous. If you are taking up limited table space and not purchasing anything then it is best to limit your usage. It is best to buy a coffee or fulfill the minimum requirements for being customer. Some business will give you the "boot" for repeat loitering while using their free WiFi.

  • Come prepared. Charge you laptop fully before venturing to a public free WiFi hotspot. Most hotspots don't have wall outlets for plugging into power. This helps businesses avoid customers that loiter too long. 

Sharing WiFi with a friend or neighbor

If you have a friend or a neighbor who has broadband internet within line of sight from your home, then you may be able to get free WiFi Internet access. You will need to ask permission to use their internet before proceeding. If all is ok, then your task will be to make a WiFi connection to their router.

The easiest way might be to simply sit outside your house with your laptop and see if you can pick-up their WiFi. I recommend using your laptop outside because your reception will be much stronger if you don't have to receive it through your home walls. You will need to be positioned with line of sight to their house. WiFi is not like AM and FM whereas it doesn't pass through objects well.

If you still aren't able to receive the WiFi signal, have your neighbor position their router in a window that faces the direction of your house. This will eliminate one or more walls on their end and increase your WiFi signal several fold. Be sure that the routers antennas are facing straight up. If this still does not work for you then you will need to consider upgrading your WiFi signal with a more powerful antenna. You can add a more powerful antenna to their router or to your computer for better reception, or to both for best reception. I suggest using a USB antenna at first to see if you can boost your laptop reception. If this does not work then you may need to go for a WiFi bridge setup.

Connecting to a free WiFi hotspot from your home

If there is a free WiFi hotspot down the street from your home then it may be possible that you can get connected; depending on far "down the street" really is. You will need a high power WiFi antenna that should be placed in the window or outside facing the hotspot. Obstructions, traffic, and weather conditions will affect your signal strength and thus affect your internet browsing speed.

Be aware that some free WiFi hotspot owners will reduce their WiFi signal strength so that it only covers the inside of their business. It will be very difficult to connect to these hotspots and you may need a very big outdoor antenna to acquire even a faint signal.

Also be aware that the owner of the hotspot will be able to see stats on how many people are connecting to their hotspot. They will be able to see your hardware address (MAC address) and computer name and determine how long you've been connected. It is possible that the owner can block someone from connecting in the future if they determine that the person is using too much bandwidth (or for any reason). 

Connecting to someone's unencrypted home WiFi network without permission

If you are connecting to someone's home WiFi connection without asking (otherwise called "piggybacking" or "mooching"), then it may be considered illegal in some states. Even though unencrypted home WiFi networks have the same "look and feel" of a real WiFi hotspot network, they usually are not intended for public access.  Always ask for permission before connecting to these types of networks.

Some may say that if the owner of the unencrypted home WiFi network does not encrypt their network, then they probably don't care who uses it. This is not always the case. When a new WiFi router or access point is purchased from the store, it comes unencrypted by factory settings and usually carries a network name like "Linksys" or "Netgear".  Because the owner of the newly purchased router is able to access the internet before setting up the router, they may not realize their unconfigured WiFi networks vulnerability. Basically, it is still trespassing to go into someone's yard, even if they forgot to shut the gate.   

Municipal WiFi

Some cities like Mt. View, CA (the home of Google) offers free WiFi to all their residents. Other cities have setup free WiFi in densely populated commercial zones only. For a list of cities that offer free municipal WiFi click here

Free broadband Internet for your home??

Umm, this may happen in the future, but for now check out what Google is working on here

 
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C. Crane Company, Inc.
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