Making your own free internet connection to share with others is a common practice for business owners and educators. Coffee shops, restaurants and public spaces often offer free internet as a means of attracting customers or as a general public service.
Setting up a free internet connection of this nature is relatively easy, but you need to decide the best method of security and access while configuring the system.
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The other type of potentially free internet connection is the one in your home. Setting up a legal and free home connection is difficult, but options exist. At the worst, you may find a significant discount for home internet service through a nonprofit or public works program.
DIY Free Wi-Fi
Building a public connection is a great way to attract customers and provide a service to the community. The one downside is security, but you can create Wi-Fi networks that are encrypted. The best means of setting up a free internet connection is separate from the connection the business uses for daily work. Many places that offer free Wi-Fi often have two separate connections, one of which is not accessible to visitors.
Setting Up a Customer Wi-Fi Connection
To set up a business connection, launch a web browser and type your wireless router Internet Protocol (IP) address into the address bar. The IP address of the router is written on the manual. The address depends on the brand and model number of your wireless router.
Next, type the admin username and password when prompted. This information is also provided to you in the manual. Type a name for your shared Wi-Fi connection. If you own a business, use your business name as the network name, also known as the SSID.
Ignore the step about network authentication (WEP/WPA) if you don't want to password-protect your network; this makes free Wi-Fi available to everyone in the immediate vicinity. If you only want customers to use the network, set a login password and share it with those individuals only.
Create an administrative password for the account. You use this password to change your router configurations. Save the changes by clicking Apply or OK depending on the router menu.
Testing the Connection
Use your computer to test the Wi-Fi connection. Restart your computer. Right-click the network icon at the bottom right corner of your screen. Click Connect to a network. Choose the Wi-Fi connection that you just created. Select Connect. Open your web browser to make sure you are connected to the internet.
Notify Your Customers
Place a sign in your store with access instructions or the password. This saves employees and staff the time required to explain the internet connection to every customer. Using a password-protected system is also a good method of generating repeat business. Customers are more likely to return knowing they have a safe and reliable internet connection.
Free and Cheap Hot Spots
Also useful for free internet are personal hot spots, which come in several different forms. Your cellphone hot spot uses data and requires a plan to function. The service is not free, but you can share a hot spot with another individual, especially when data is unlimited.
FreedomPop is a free service that uses an independent hot spot device rather than a cellphone. It offers a free plan that connects you to the internet. The free plan has a small amount of data, but it remains sufficient for basic web searches and browsing. An upgraded plan is necessary to handle streaming.
Most cell providers also offer independent hot spots and separate data plans specific to internet use. The only downside to a hot spot is the requirement of a strong cell signal. The free plan from FreedomPop, however, remains one of the few ways to obtain an internet connection at home free of charge.
Free Internet for Personal Use
While setting up a free personal internet connection in the home is difficult, finding a free Wi-Fi signal is easy in most communities. Public libraries, community centers and local businesses offer free internet.
The libraries and public spaces do not require any purchases, and they offer a place to sit and work. You don't even need a computer; most library systems offer computers where you can access the internet.
Businesses offering free Wi-Fi may or may not require a purchase to access their internet connection, so the service is not necessarily free unless you are planning a coffee trip anyway. The internet provided is usually free, and it offers a good solution in your hometown or while traveling.
Another way of accessing the internet for free is through a shared connection. Borrowing a Wi-Fi password in your community or at a friend's house for temporary access is not uncommon. For any regular access in the home, however, you need a service plan to make a legal connection.
Public Service Internet Discounts
Access to the internet has become mandatory in most professions and is required in the school systems. Many schools use digital grading and manage assignments online. Entire college degrees are earned online as well.
Being such a necessary tool in daily life means the internet is viewed as a necessity, and public services are being created to subsidize costs. Ensuring that the internet is available to all children and rural communities creates an even playing field for businesses and individuals.
The FCC participates in the Everyone On Connect to Compete program that offers income-based programs to reduce payments for internet services. In some cases, the subsidy pays the entire cost, providing a free home internet solution for qualified individuals and families.
A typical internet bill runs over $50 each month. Bringing the cost down to $20 or less provides significant savings for low-income families and individuals. It also ensures students have much-needed access to the internet to complete assignments and excel in school.
Free Dial-Up Internet
Free dial-up internet still exists, although the service is only suited for limited internet use. If you only need the internet to check a few emails each month or you don't mind waiting for web pages to load, dial-up service offers an easy solution.
NetZero offers 10 free hours of internet each month through a dial-up connection. If you want a heavier use plan, paid options exist, although paying for dial-up doesn't make much sense in a world of high-speed connections. Even rural areas have high-speed internet, and people can connect through a satellite plan where fiber optic cable doesn't exist.
Dial-up plans are very inexpensive when compared to most service providers. The speed does not allow for streaming video or music effectively, but you can still manage basic browsing, email and file uploads. The file uploads take a significant amount of time, so prepare to click the Start button and manage other tasks while waiting. If speed and time are not a factor for your internet usage, this is an acceptable option.