8 Ways to Get Free or Affordable Internet

Free internet plans aren't just a dream — it's reality. Check out eight ways to get free or cheap internet at home or in public.
Sara J. Nguyen, Author
Steph Trejos, Editor
Last updated Sep 12, 2022

Internet connections aren't "nice to have" services. It's practically mandatory to have internet access to complete work or school assignments. But an affordable internet plan with high speeds isn't always easy to find. Especially if you have a limited budget or live in a rural area.

However, there are programs available for free or cheap internet. These eight options are available for your home and in public spaces:

  1. Sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program
  2. Use the EveryoneOn offer finder tool
  3. Qualify for Connect2Compete for certain households with K-12 students
  4. FreedomPop for free phone, text, and data
  5. Apply for NetZero for free dial-up connections
  6. Use public Wi-Fi networks
  7. Create a mobile hotspot
  8. Connect to your internet service provider’s (ISPs) Wi-Fi hotspots

Read on to learn how you can get free or affordable internet near you.

In this article
Get free internet at home
Affordable Connectivity Program
EveryoneOn
FreedomPop
NetZero
Get free internet in public
Public Wi-Fi networks
Mobile hotspots
Tips to stay safe while using free public Wi-Fi
FAQs
Bottom line

Get free internet at home

Getting free internet at home is easier than you think, but you may need to meet some eligibility requirements or use a limited amount of internet. There are many government and private programs available for getting free internet at home. Let's explore some of those programs.

Affordable Connectivity Program

Created by the Federal Communications Commission, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a U.S. government program that helps low-income families and households pay for internet service and receive a one-time discount for an electronic device. The ACP replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit at the end of 2021.

If a household is eligible for the ACP, they can receive:

  • Up to $30 discount per month on internet service
  • Up to $75 discount per month if the household is located on qualifying Tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a copayment between $10 and $50)

Certain ISPs have created ACP-eligible high-speed internet plans for no more than $30 per month. This means the ACP can cover the entire cost. Some of these providers include AT&T, Comcast, and Frontier. A full list can be viewed here.

There are three different ways to qualify for the ACP:

  1. Your income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  2. You or someone in your household participates in another government program like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance, Veterans Pension and survivor benefits, free and reduced school lunch programs, Federal Pell Grants, Lifeline, or certain Tribal assistance programs
  3. You meet the eligibility criteria for a participating ISP's existing low-income internet program

To apply for the ACP, you can fill out an application online or contact your current internet provider if they participate.

EveryoneOn

EveryoneOn is a nonprofit organization aiming to bring low-cost internet access and computer offerings to underserved communities. It has an offer locator tool to help you find affordable internet service and computers in your area. Simply enter your zip code and applicable qualifications, and the tool will reveal what you are eligible for.

Connect2Compete

Connect2Compete is EveryoneOn's flagship program to provide affordable internet and devices to families with K-12 students. Cox and Mediacom partnered with EveryoneOn to supply internet connections to low-income households with children.

To qualify for Cox, your household must have at least one K-12 student and participate in a government assistance program.

For Mediacom, your household needs at least one K-12 student who participates in the free or reduced lunch program, isn't currently enrolled in a Mediacom plan, and doesn't have any outstanding bills with Mediacom.

FreedomPop

FreedomPop offers free talk, text, and data. As you may expect from a free service, it's fairly limited. The free plan only includes 10 minutes of talk, 10 text messages, and 25 megabytes (MB) of high-speed data every 30 days.

However, you do have unlimited Wi-Fi calling as well as unlimited iMessages and RCS over Wi-Fi. You just have to pay $10 to receive the SIM card. FreedomPop claims the free plan is a great option if you are consistently connected to Wi-Fi or only use data for maps and emails.

You could also choose to upgrade to a paid plan, and FreedomPop offers custom plans to choose the minutes, text messages, and data you want to use. Paid plans range from $15 to $50 every 30 days.

NetZero

NetZero offers a free dial-up internet connection. It's an outdated option, especially because you need an installation CD or downloaded software to begin using it. But it does provide up to 10 hours of free internet access every month. Keep in mind, you’ll need to choose an access number carefully to avoid long distance or toll charges from your phone company.

Get free internet in public

You don't need to be confined to your home to get access to the internet. There are various sources of free public Wi-Fi available. However, these are more prone to security issues because anyone can access the network and subsequently hack it. Let's review how to find free internet in public and how to keep your data safe when you use it.

Public Wi-Fi networks

Finding free Wi-Fi networks is fairly easy these days. Many stores, restaurants, and other service locations offer Wi-Fi as a complimentary courtesy to customers. Here are a few places that commonly have public Wi-Fi networks:

  • Coffee shops: Places such as Starbucks are popular sites for people to work on their laptops for a few hours. Coffee shops usually have public Wi-Fi networks you could use.
  • Restaurant chains: Usually fast food chains and restaurants will have free-of-charge Wi-Fi for patrons.
  • Local libraries: Public libraries are another place that typically offers free Wi-Fi. You may need a library card or guest credentials to access the public network. Don't forget to check out your local university library for free Wi-Fi as well.
  • Retailers: Malls, gyms, and popular stores frequently have public Wi-Fi networks available.

Some places with public Wi-Fi networks openly share the Wi-Fi password on a sign posted in their establishment. Other places require a person to buy something before being given access. Other times, establishments don't even bother with security and don't require a password at all to access their public Wi-Fi network.

Mobile hotspots

There are two ways to access mobile hotspots. The first option is through your mobile phone. Although this does use your mobile data plan, it can work if you need Wi-Fi access on your laptop or other devices.

The steps to turn on a mobile hotspot will depend on your phone manufacturer. For an Android device, it will look similar to this:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Connections
  3. Tap Mobile Hotspot and Tethering
  4. Toggle the Mobile Hotspot switch to On

For an iPhone device, here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Personal Hotspot
  3. Toggle the Allow Others to Join switch to On

The second option is to use your ISP's Wi-Fi hotspots. Some providers give you access to numerous hotspots nationwide. All you need is the provider's app, account login credentials, and an active subscription. A couple of providers with public hotspot services include Comcast Xfinity and Spectrum.

Tips to stay safe while using free public Wi-Fi

Using a public Wi-Fi network does come with additional security risks. You won't have any control over who uses the network, and there could be hackers looking for vulnerable devices. If you use free public Wi-Fi, consider implementing these measures to protect yourself and your data:

  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your connection and keep your data secure.
  • Only use secure websites with HTTPS in the address to lower your risk of connecting to unsecured sites.
  • Opt to use mobile data because it's more likely to be secure than a public Wi-Fi connection with no VPN.
  • Don't access your personal or financial information such as your bank accounts.
  • Keep your browser and security software up to date to receive warnings about an attack.
  • Change your device settings to not automatically connect to nearby public Wi-Fi.

FAQs


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What is the cheapest internet service?

The cheapest internet service is offered by the Affordable Connectivity Program. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can get your entire internet bill covered. You could also get a Connect2Compete discount if you have a K-12 student in your household.


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How do I get internet with SNAP benefits?

You can get free internet with SNAP benefits with the Affordable Connectivity Program. If you or someone in your household uses SNAP benefits, you can apply online to get up to $30 off your internet bill. Because many internet providers offer ACP-eligible connections for less than $30, your entire internet bill could be covered.


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Which countries have free internet?

Several countries have free internet from public Wi-Fi hotspots, mostly in Europe, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and North America. According to telecommunications company Ooma, the best public Wi-Fi is found in Lithuania, Croatia, Estonia, Ireland, and Romania.

Bottom line

There are a multitude of ways for you to get free internet. The best option will depend on your qualifications, internet usage, and your location. Many low-income U.S. households can benefit from applying for the Affordable Connectivity Program. You could also limit your internet usage to get affordable plans.

Another option is to use establishments outside of your home to connect to the internet. Many places in the U.S. offer free Wi-Fi. Places such as cafes and libraries are great for working or studying for a few hours.

Author Details
Sara J. Nguyen
Sara J. Nguyen is a freelance writer specializing in cybersecurity and marketing. Her educational background in public relations helps her work closely with companies to provide informative and engaging content for their audience. When she's not writing, you can find her planning her next international trip.