No internet at home? You can still get free WiFi anywhere in the world

This story is part of home tipsCNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, both indoors and out.

Working remotely and virtual learning don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, even as offices reopen and health stats improve during the pandemic. And people stay in the US outside of work and school cut the wire On cable and satellite packages, and choose streaming services save money.

All of these trends point to one important factor: a need for reliable internet. What does this mean for people who cannot get a reliable internet connection at home? It’s certainly not an ideal situation, but there are still things you can do to get yourself online.

In this guide, we’ll give you a quick overview of how to get online quickly with a hot spot, and how to find free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world. (You can also learn how do you know if your wifi is slow due to internet limitationand how to speed up your wifi

Read more: Best Internet Service Providers of 2022

What is a hot spot?

A hotspot is a central location or device that provides wireless access to the Internet and any network device can connect if it has proper access. Depending on your mobile operator and plan, you may be able to smartphone as a hotspot

There are two different types of hotspots: public and private.

In the above scenario where you paid your cellular provider for the ability to create a hotspot with your smartphone, the smartphone is the physical device that creates wireless access for other Wi-Fi devices, such as laptops, desktop computers, and streaming devices. devices . This is an example of a private hotspot.

A public hotspot is usually created by a company to provide internet service when visitors, customers and customers are on site. Many free, public Wi-Fi connections are hotspots. But for accuracy, it’s important to note a difference between standard Wi-Fi and a hotspot.

A Telstra engineer installs a 5G-enabled public Wi-Fi hotspot

A hotspot is a central location or device that provides wireless access to the Internet.

Brad Wagner/Telstra

What exactly is the difference between WiFi and a hotspot?

Where hotspots are a physical location or device, Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that devices can use to send information to each other. If you have Wi-Fi at home, it’s because you have a Wi-Fi router that supports all your wireless gadgets, and an ISP that connects that router to the Internet.

As long as you set a strong password, such a private Wi-Fi network will be more secure than a public hotspot because you control who and what connects to it. Public hotspots, on the other hand, are open to anyone within reach, so it’s a good idea to use them a VPN or another security measure: if you need to do something sensitive like shopping or sending money.

How to find free wifi or free public hotspots

While this probably won’t be possible at home (unless you live very close to someone who has an unsecured network), there are usually many options for finding free Wi-Fi or public hotspots in businesses such as coffee shops, libraries, hotels, restaurants, fitness centers, and more. .

If you’re about to spend a day looking for free internet, here are some useful apps to try:

Such apps display a map of your area with a list of free public Wi-Fi or hotspots. Most also allow you to track login requirements and hotspot ratings.

Some locations, such as libraries, are generally a given for free public Wi-Fi, but if you’re not using a Wi-Fi finder app, it’s a good idea to call first to make sure.

Set up and use free WiFi

Make sure the device you want to use is Wi-Fi enabled. If so, make sure Wi-Fi is turned on.

Once you’ve arrived at the location where you’ll be using public Wi-Fi or hotspot, open a browser and open your computer’s network settings or click the Wi-Fi icon on your screen. Then select the public Wi-Fi connection you want to use. If the connection is public, you will now be connected, but note if an opt-in site appears in your browser. Some companies require you to agree to their terms of service or provide an email address before letting you use their free Wi-Fi.

Some companies provide a login and password to their customers and offer a secure network. If the connection you want to use is listed as secure, search around for the login and password posted in the company, or ask someone for help. And yes, if you’re somewhere like a coffee shop, it would be polite to buy a pastry or a cup of joe while you’re at it.

If you’ve set up your computer to automatically connect to available networks, your computer will automatically join their network the next time you visit that company.

htc 5g hotspot device

This hotspot device from HTC uses an incoming 5G connection to provide Wi-Fi internet access for nearby wireless devices.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Set up and use a private hotspot

They are not free, but if you need an internet connection at home and a good mobile signal, a paid hotspot can be a place to go. For example, maybe you live in a rural area with limited ISP optionsor maybe the internet plans in your area are all out of your budget.

Depending on your mobile operator and the plan you’re paying for, you may already have personal hotspot capabilities. If not, check with your carrier to determine how much they will charge you for that option. Be prepared to pay more if you are looking for unlimited data.

After considering the prices, you have to choose between using your smartphone as a hotspot or buying it a dedicated Wi-Fi hotspot device

Check your phone’s settings for hotspot capabilities.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Should I use my smartphone, or a separate hotspot device?

A hotspot device is considered a separate device on your cellular plan with its own separate data limit. The downside is the extra cost, but the upside is that you don’t have to worry about your smartphone usage eating up your hotspot data. Another positive point: if you have a strong password, using a hotspot device to get online is as secure as any ISP-provided Wi-Fi connection, and often offers greater range as well. We are also seeing a growing number of full-fledged WiFi routers and mesh routers that are designed to get their incoming signal over a cellular connection, such as LTE or 5G

Both smartphone hotspots and dedicated hotspot devices can be used anywhere, although it may be more convenient to use a smartphone hotspot in public places, especially if you’re just trying to get your laptop online for a few minutes.

What options does my internet provider offer?

In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission issued the Keep Americans Connected initiative to help people maintain their broadband and telephone connections during the pandemic. In addition, providers love Comcast extended free public Wi-Fi for everyone (customers and non-customers) in 2020. Many carriers have extended such benefits until 2022 – if you’re struggling, it’s worth checking with the carriers in your area about your options.

Whichever path you choose, the bottom line is that you probably have more ways to get online than you might think. Hopefully this guide will help you find and take advantage of them — in the meantime, here’s some more reading that might also be helpful:

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