Once you have a device, you need to get online – and free wifi could be the best (and definitely the cheapest) way to do it.
The most common ways to connect are using your cellular connection, or your home wifi network.
But there are also thousands of public wifi hotspots across the country you may also be able to access for free. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to access them from home, which can be a real lifesaver if you don’t have your own internet connection there.:
Using a cellular network in a phone, tablet or hotspot – this will simply connect you without having to worry about broadband or wifi. You’ll be able to get online and browse, shop and even stream music and video.
Installing broadband – If you can do it, this will give you the most flexibility. However, it’s also the most complicated route, and may well require someone to come and visit your home to install everything. It’s worth checking if your building already has broadband wired in, many do, which will make things easier.
How to find free hotspots
We’ve got a list of the most common free hotspots below. To find them, the easiest thing to do is use your phone to look for wifi networks nearby.
Doing this depends on the phone you have.
If you have an iPhone, tap on the settings icon (the one that looks like a gear), then on Wi-Fi. You’l see a list of the networks nearby you can connect to. To choose one, just click on it – in most cases, you’ll be asked for a password. Enter it, and then you’ll connect.
in the upper-left corner of your display or the upper-right corner on an iPhone X and later.
Apple has a great, easy to use guide to connecting to Wi-Fi from an iPhone or iPad here.
If you have an Android phone (such as a phone made by Samsung or Google), swipe down from the top of the screen, and touch and hold the wifi icon. You’ll see a list of nearby networks. Networks that require a password have a Lock, and those you can
- Swipe down from the top of the screen.
- Touch and hold Wi-Fi .
- Turn on Use Wi-Fi.
- Tap a listed network. Networks that require a password have a Lock
Free wifi hotspots
However, there is another option – connecting to a local wifi hotspot. These are often found in libraries, parks and, in major cities, even on the street. Museums, subway stations and large stores also often have free wifi you can connect to.
As well as the LinkNYC stations we’re all used to seeing on streets in New York City, most of the big cable firms like Spectrum and Xfinity also run huge wifi networks that cover a lot of the city. If you’ve got a smartphone, you can check the available wifi networks (on an iPhone, got to settings/
However, since not everyone at home has internet service, several internet providers and wireless companies have announced measures to offer free WiFi during the ongoing outbreak.
Offering free service at its Xfinity hotspots. The access points are mostly in public locations but some are in small businesses.
- Go online to wifi.xfinity.com
- Use ‘Find a Hotspot’ and enter your city or zip code
- Go to location of hotspot
Look for “xfinitywifi” in the list of available networks on your device. Most are located in businesses and outdoor locations.
Offering 60 days of free public service.
Offering free public access at its hotspots and will not cut service to residential or small business customers who are unable to pay their bill because of coronavirus disruptions. Spectrum is also offering free broadband to households with students.
Using a public free Wifi hotspot in New York
Most public parks in the city now offer free wi-fi.
Some prominent ones include the High Line, Bryant Park, Battery Park, City Hall Park, Madison Square Park, Tompkins Square Park and Union Square Park (Brooklyn and Queens are also well covered).
Central Park is technically covered, but according to multiple reports connectivity there is poor. For other locations, check out www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/wifi.
Museums also often offer free wi-fi, as do underground subway stations. LinkNYC (www.link.nyc) has installed free internet-connected kiosks, replete with charging stations and wi-fi access.
Cheap internet for seniors
Many providers also offer several programs which cater to elderly consumers receiving government assistance. Read our guide to internet deals for seniors to find them