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WiFi certainly doesn’t come cheap, but in a pinch, there are quite a few ways to find free WiFi, no matter where you are. Until Facebook makes good on its pledge Facebook Is Bringing WiFi To The Masses With Drones Facebook Is Bringing WiFi To The Masses With Drones Almost two thirds of the world's population lack Internet access. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg seems eager to address this very real inequality with autonomous drones that will provide free Internet access. Read More to bring free WiFi to the masses, you can use WiFi Hotspot Finders and arm yourself with information before you set out for the day to find free WiFi.

Remember, there are always security issues with public WiFi 3 Dangers Of Logging On To Public Wi-Fi 3 Dangers Of Logging On To Public Wi-Fi You've heard that you shouldn't open PayPal, your bank account and possibly even your email while using public WiFi. But what are the actual risks? Read More , which can leave you susceptible to hackers 5 Ways Hackers Can Use Public Wi-Fi to Steal Your Identity 5 Ways Hackers Can Use Public Wi-Fi to Steal Your Identity You might love using public Wi-Fi -- but so do hackers. Here are five ways cybercriminals can access your private data and steal your identity, while you're enjoying a latte and a bagel. Read More . Karl teaches you how to protect your personal information Things To Know When Using a WiFi Hotspot Or a Public PC Things To Know When Using a WiFi Hotspot Or a Public PC Read More while enjoying free WiFi connectivity. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you get what you pay for – so, in many instances, free WiFi can be slow and frustrating.

At Businesses and Hotels

With a Starbucks on just about every corner of every major US city, it’s no wonder this coffee shop is a popular option for people looking for free WiFi (and a hot drink.)

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Image Credit: Natee Meepian via Shutterstock.com

Tons of coffee shops, restaurants, fast food joints, malls, and retailers are also the site of free WiFi. You can get free WiFi at the following locations, among other places:

  • Starbucks
  • Apple Stores
  • Barnes and Noble
  • McDonald’s
  • Panera Bread
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Whole Foods
  • Staples
  • Best Buy
  • Target
  • Subway
  • Taco Bell
  • Michaels

Some hotels also offer free WiFi if you join their loyalty or rewards programs — just don’t expect blazing speeds through these networks. Kimpton Hotels and Omni Hotels, for example, offer free WiFi through a free loyalty program. Some hotels like Hyatt offer free WiFi without the need to join a loyalty program. You can check out this list of hotels that offer free WiFi and how to get it.

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There are also quite a few random places you might not think to look for WiFi including laundromats, courthouses, museums, bookstores, and gyms. The hotspot finders listed below are a great way to find more of these locations.

Using WiFi Hotspot Finders

To find out which businesses or locations offer free WiFi in your area, you can use Hotspot finders 5 Wi-Fi Hotspot Finders to Find Free Wi-Fi Spots Near You 5 Wi-Fi Hotspot Finders to Find Free Wi-Fi Spots Near You Read More like WiFi Free Spot. The global database includes free WiFi locations in the United States, Europe, Australia, Canada, South and Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Locations are divided by country, state, and city, and includes libraries, hotels, restaurants, and even modes of transportation. The database includes addresses of the locations and links to their websites.

If you want to take the database on the go with you, there are some great mobile apps worth considering. WiFi Map, available as a free iOS and Android app, boasts over 100,000,000 hotspots in America, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa.

The app also includes user-provided passwords for networks that are password protected and will let you know how far that WiFi hotspot is from your current location. (To view these passwords, you will have to put up with some advertising.)

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A paid version of the app which costs $4.99 will extend that 2.5 mile radius and provide offline features, which will definitely come in handy when traveling and trying to avoid exorbitant roaming charges. With the free version, you can only access information on hotspots within a 2.5 mile radius of your current location.

WeFiPro is also available as a completely free iOS and Android app.

At Airports and On Airplanes

Airport WiFi is often either password protected or, if free, it’s notoriously bad. Still, when you’re stuck in an airport with a long layover, any WiFi is good WiFi. If you want to access the password-protected networks often associated with airport lounges, there are a few ways to find out that information:

Map Of Wireless Passwords: This map of wireless passwords for airport lounges around the world is crowdsourced and regularly updated. It’s easy to filter down to the airport of your choice to see all passwords listed.

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Foursquare: Believe it or not, Foursquare is still around Foursquare Relaunches As Discovery Tool Based On Your Tastes Foursquare Relaunches As Discovery Tool Based On Your Tastes Foursquare pioneered the mobile check-in; a location-based status update that told the world exactly where you were and why – so is the switch to a pure discovery tool a step forward? Read More , and its crowdsourcing features will come in handy. Check out the Foursquare page of the airport you’re in (or are going to be in) and you can often find WiFi passwords in the tips section.

When traveling, it’s also worth thinking about which airlines offer free WiFi onboard, because it just might not worth paying for In-Flight Wi-Fi: What to Know Before Wasting Money on It In-Flight Wi-Fi: What to Know Before Wasting Money on It More and more airlines are starting to offer in-flight Wi-Fi, but is it worth the exorbitant prices? Here's everything you need to know. Read More . JetBlue offers free WiFi to all travelers, while Alaska Airlines lets passengers use iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger for free on flights where WiFi is available.

A few months ago, Lifehacker also featured a method that could get you free, unlimited WiFi on flights but they require either an iPhone or access to your own server. T-Mobile customers can also take advantage of an offer that gets them one hour of free in-flight WiFi.

Your Town or County

Municipal Internet Access, or Muni WiFi, seems to be an on-again off-again project for most communities. County residents can sign up for a free account and access the internet for little to no cost — a service covered using taxpayer money.

Municipalities also often provide totally free, unlimited internet access at locations such as municipal offices, libraries, and some schools. To find out more about what your community offers, take a look at your local government websites. Free wireless access is a staple of most large libraries, and often no username or password is required. In some cases, you can also use public computers in these libraries.

New York provides a service for families that can’t afford ISP charges. Families with at least one child attending a public school who don’t have at-home internet can apply for free WiFi service at home provided through The New York Public Library’s Library HotSpot program. New York also offers free WiFi on select subway stations.

Your ISP or Cell Phone Provider

Another place to check for free internet access is through your current ISP. Many of them offer free hotspots, many of which you will find concentrated around major cities. Use your zip code to find out where to find hotspots from Xfinity, Cox, Time Warner CableVerizonOptimum, and Bright House.

Some US cell phone providers also offer hotspots. AT&T customers can take advantage of a similar free service, which T-Mobile customers will have to pay an additional $9.99 per month for access to hotspots.

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All Free ISP

As an absolute last resort, you could give All Free ISP a try. The searchable database covers the United States and Canada, making it easy to find a service provider near you. The catch is that most of the services that are completely free are offering dial-up Internet – which if you’ve ever used it – you know it’s going to be painfully slow.

In addition, many of the providers, like Juno for example, will display large banner ads for the privilege of using their service. And of course, if you don’t have a landline, this site really isn’t for you. Depending on where you live in the US or Canada, you simply might not find free dial-up service. It all depends on what constitutes a long distance phone call for you.

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To find out if you can get free dial-up in your area, you can either select your state or province from a drop-down menu or enter your telephone area code. All Free ISP breaks the list down into cities, includes a rating system, and lets you know what platforms are supported.

If you can’t find any free WiFi in your area, you can use your phone to create your own private hotspot How to Save Data When You Tether and Get Online from Anywhere How to Save Data When You Tether and Get Online from Anywhere In the modern age, how useful is any computer when it's disconnected from the Internet? Unless you use a specialist professional program, most of your typical day-to-day computing will need a connection. Read More . You will obviously need to take certain things into consideration including your own data limits. If you have unlimited data, some mobile networks can throttle your speed to limit your hotspot use when you tether your phone to your computer.

We all like a freebie now and again. Got a tip on access being provided by your government? Let everyone know – it’s good to use the services you already pay for.

Know of any other interesting ways to get legal free Internet access? Share it in the comments.

Image Credit:Jiffy Avril via Shutterstock.com

Originally written by Guy McDowell on June 24rth, 2009

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