Internet out at home? Here’s how to get Wi-Fi access anywhere at any time

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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. However, if you’re currently looking for a backup plan, we have several suggestions to keep in mind the next time you’re stuck without Internet at your main digs.

If driving/commuting is an option…

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

Coffee ShopKeep 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.

If driving/commuting isn’t an option…

If you’re stuck in a situation where you don’t have Internet at home and your car is out of commission (it’s in the shop or your spouse has it), 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.
  • 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.

TetheringThe 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, but the average cost is around $20 per month for a couple gigabytes of tethering bandwidth, with bigger plans available for a few dollars more, incrementally.

You can also get a dedicated mobile hotspot from the carrier of your choice. Many of the hotspot devices offered are free after signing a two-year contract, so you only have to pay for the monthly plan. Then again, if you don’t already have a daily use for a mobile hotspot, it’s probably a waste of money, since you’ll only use it if your home Internet is out. This is why just activating it on your smartphone when you need it is the best option in this case.

  • Freedompop: However, mobile hotspots can still be good for this if you go through a service like Freedompop. It offers a free mobile hotspot (with a deposit), and a free allotment of data. Usually it’s a small amount (starting at around 200MB), but you can earn more by referring friends and such. There are no monthly fees, unless you opt for the rollover option, which costs a few dollars per month and rolls over any data left over from the previous month. Freedompop even offers mobile hotspots specifically for home use. These devices allow for multiple users and the opportunity to earn more data by participating in “partner promotions.” Though it is a good deal, there is some fine print, so make sure to read our explanation of the terms and conditions
hotspot
  • Hotspot alternatives: If you’re looking for a mobile hotspot, but don’t like what the major carriers offer, Clear and Karma are two companies that offer good deals on mobile hotspots. Clear has unlimited 4G plans starting at $34 per month, while Karma offers something similar to Freedompop, but it’s a pay-as-you-go platform that costs $14 per 1GB, with no monthly costs.
  • Third-party apps: The less ethical way you can tether is using a third-party app through your smartphone, allowing you to bypass the carrier’s monthly charge and tether for free. There are tons of these apps out there, most of which require that you jailbreak or root your iPhone or Android device, but a few apps don’t require any of that. However, apps that don’t require a jailbreak/root usually cost a few dollars, so be aware of that if you plan on taking this route.
  • Asking neighbors: If you’re stuck at home with no free Wi-Fi anywhere nearby and you can’t tether, then you’re only option is to suck up to your neighbor and see if you can use their Internet 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).

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 re-evaluate 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.

If you do use public Wi-Fi, make sure it’s legitimate and not a fake Wi-Fi network that’s made to steal your personal information. Even if you are on a legitimate public Wi-Fi network, it’s always a good idea to use a VPN to keep your browsing activity safe from lurking eyes.

Image via Teresa Boardman/Flickr; Pavel Ignatov/Shutterstock

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