How to get Wi-Fi access anywhere at any time

It doesn’t happen very often, but there are times when you can’t access the internet at home. Maybe it’s because service is out, or perhaps you moved to a new place and are waiting for the ISP to get around to installing the new service. In these instances, it’s always good to have a backup plan in mind so that you’ll still have internet access, even when your main home connection is MIA. If you’re currently looking for a backup plan, we have several suggestions to keep in mind.

If driving/commuting is an option

person sitting with computer at coffee shop with iced coffee
Fabiola Peñalba/Unsplash

If you’re able and willing to leave the house in order to get internet access, there are a bevy of options that you can take advantage of, including some of the obvious ones:

  • Coffee shops
  • Libraries and bookstores
  • Fast food joints
  • Hotel lobbies
  • Your local university campus
  • Gym/fitness center

Keep in mind that using public Wi-Fi at an establishment requires a certain give and take. It’s customary and a common courtesy to always purchase something when you take up space at a coffee shop or fast food joint. Better yet, if you tip well and get to know the baristas, no one will give you the stink eye when you plug your surge protector into the wall and pull out your day’s work.

Furthermore, some places that offer public Wi-Fi limit it to members only. You might have to show proof of a library card in order to use your library’s Wi-Fi, or you may have to be a member of the gym if you want to take advantage of the internet there. It’s always a good idea to call ahead and see what their policies are before you make a solid plan.

Keep in mind that public Wi-Fi can be dangerous. You don’t have any control of security, which may not be up to recommended standards, and these can be popular spots for hackers looking to intercept financial information. If you frequently rely on public Wi-Fi, we recommend adding a VPN to your devices.

If driving/commuting isn’t an option

man drinking coffee with laptop and phone
Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

If you’re stuck in a situation where you don’t have internet at home and you can’t hop in a car or on the bus, things get a bit trickier. There are still some options that you can consider, some of which require planning ahead and can’t be used at the last minute.

  • Places within walking distance: This one’s pretty easy, but if there’s a coffee shop or library within a reasonable walking distance, feel free to make the trek in order to use the Wi-Fi. It’s certainly not a convenience, but you’ll be getting some healthy exercise in while you’re at it. You can also try your apartment complex’s lobby, clubhouse, or leasing office (if you live in an apartment, that is). Most of these places offer free Wi-Fi in their common areas that’s free for residents, so be sure to check and see if that’s an option.
  • City Wi-Fi: Some cities also offer their own Wi-Fi within city limits that’s open and free to locals and tourists alike. Your location is also a factor in this situation, so if you don’t live within city limits, you most likely won’t get a signal.
  • Asking neighbors: If you’re stuck at home with no free Wi-Fi anywhere nearby and you can’t tether, then your only option is to suck up to your neighbor and see if you can use their Wi-Fi temporarily. If you’ve never met your neighbor, be prepared for them to be a little cautious, but if you explain your situation, they’ll most likely be sympathetic and let you on, depending on how nice they are (and depending on how good the cookies are that you made to bribe them with).

Tethering

If you have a smartphone, you can tether your data connection to your computer, giving you full-blown internet access through 3G/4G data. This is entirely dependent on your phone’s reception, so if you don’t get a particularly good connection in your house, then tethering probably isn’t going to do much for you. However, if it is an option, there are a few ways to go about it.

The official way to get tethering on your phone and computer is to activate the Wi-Fi hotspot feature in your phone’s settings menu. Each carrier is different when it comes to tethering, so monthly charges may vary, and some carriers may include it as part of your monthly service, depending on the plan you have.

You can also tether by connecting your phone to your computer via USB, but for a truly wireless experience (without Wi-Fi)  you can also use Bluetooth to set up a tethering connection. If you have an iPhone, tethering typically uses iTunes, while tethering options also exist in Android settings. Look for options to create a “personal hotspot” or similar language.

Creating a mobile hotspot

Somewear Global Hotspot

You can also get a dedicated mobile hotspot from the carrier of your choice, which is similar to tethering but designed specifically for mobile devices when you are on the go.

On an Android phone, for example, you simply swipe down from the top of the screen and select Hotspot. You should also check with your provider settings to make sure that mobile hotspot features are turned on. This is an increasingly common feature for smartphones and phone plans, so it’s certainly worth checking if you aren’t sure. Typically these hotspots have limits on how many devices they can connect, around 5 to 10 depending on plans. You will also want to make sure your phone is being charged because this can sap a lot of battery life.

There’s another way to get mobile hotspots if your phone doesn’t support them: Separate hotspot devices help you get reliable internet connections wherever you are going. There are a variety of these hotspot devices, and many are carrier specific, but it can be nice to have a dedicated hotspot that you can keep in your pack when you travel. Plans may be required to use them. If you are interested, take a look at this Nighthawk M1 mobile router, or this Somewear Global Hotspot that uses satellite connections.

Hotspot alternatives: If you’re looking for a mobile hotspot, but don’t like what the monthly contract plans offer, you may want to consider pay-as-you-go plans such as those offered by AT&T and StraightTalk. AT&T’s prepaid mobile hotspot plans start at $25 per month for 3GB. And since it’s prepaid and not a contract, you can just let the plan expire without renewing it, if you’re done using it. StraightTalk also offers prepaid mobile plans. Its plans start at $15 per month for 1GB.

Don’t sweat it too much

Depending on your situation and desperation, it might just be a good idea to embrace the fact that you temporarily don’t have internet at your house and go do something outside. Of course, some of us need internet for work or school, but if you’re just looking for an excuse to keep up with your Facebook and Twitter feeds, it might be a good time to reevaluate your internet needs and simply take time to smell the roses when the internet goes down. Go read a book, cook something, or even finish building that model rocket that you’ve been putting off for months.

In the end, there are plenty of options that you can take advantage of if you’re waiting to get internet hooked up at your house. Depending on how persistent you are, you can get Wi-Fi access if you need to, but there’s no harm in just waiting it out and doing something else in the meantime.

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