Technology Explained

How to Get Wi-Fi Without an Internet Service Provider: 5 Methods

Dan Price Updated 28-05-2020

Getting on the web is expensive. In the United States, the average cost of a home internet connection is $60 per month. Don’t fancy paying all that money? Don’t worry; even if you don’t have a regular ISP, there are still ways to go online.

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Here’s how to get Wi-Fi without an Internet Service Provider.

1. Mobile Hotspot

The best way to make sure you have the internet on your laptop at all times is to use a mobile hotspot.

Of course, there is an upfront cost of doing so—you will need to buy a hotspot device and subscribe to a mobile internet plan. Quite a few companies offer mobile hotspots.

There are three mobile hotspot models we particularly recommend:

Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L

Despite being a couple of years old, the Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L is probably still the best 4G hotspot available right now. It uses Qualcomm’s X20 modem and supports 11 LTE bands. It provides both 2.4 and 5GHz mobile networks, supports guest connections, and allows you to connect up to 15 devices to the network at once.

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The device is only available through Verizon. You can get the device for $99 if you sign up for a two-year mobile internet contract. It is $199 if you buy the device contract-free.

HTC 5G Hub

The HTC 5G Hub is the best 5G mobile hotspot on the market.

The device has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 CPU, a Snapdragon X50 5G modem, 4GB of RAM, support for Bluetooth and Ethernet connections, all-day battery life, and the ability to connect up to 20 devices at the same time. It runs Android.

On the downside, 5G is still not available everywhere. If you’re looking for a hotspot that will work when you’re off the beaten path, the HTC 5G Hub might not be for you.

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Sprint MiFi 8000 Mobile Hotspot

The MiFi 8000 (only available on Sprint in the US), can provide internet speeds of up to 1Gbps while you’re on-the-go.

The device will run for 24 hours on a single charge, supports guest connections, and offers an onboard VPN for added security.

Under the hood, you’ll find 4GB of RAM and the in-house MiFi OS2 operating system.

Roaming Man U2 Global 4G Wi-Fi Hotspot

If you need a laptop internet while you’re traveling outside of the United States, you need a mobile hotspot and internet plan that both work internationally.

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We like the Roaming Man U2 Global 4G Wi-Fi Hotspot. It works in more than 130 countries with prices of $8 to $10 per day.

Of course, at those prices, it is not a suitable domestic option. But if you’re on vacation and need to stay connected to home, it remains cheaper than using roaming internet on your smartphone.

2. Tether Your Smartphone or Tablet

If you don’t need regular mobile data and instead just need occasional access to the internet on your laptop, the fastest and easiest way to get online is often to tether your smartphone.

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Tethering your smartphone or tablet does have two drawbacks.

  1. You’re entirely dependent on the signal of your mobile phone carrier. That’s fine if you’re in a city, but less reliable if you’re out in the country.
  2. Laptops typically use much more data than smartphones, meaning you could be in for a nasty surprise when your next phone bill lands in your mailbox.

If you have an Android device, you can enable tethering by heading to Settings > Network and internet > Hotspot and Tethering, then slide the toggle next to Wi-Fi Hotspot into the On position. iOS users need to go to Settings > Personal Hotspot and slide the toggle.

On both Android and iOS, you should set a new username and password to protect the security of your hotspot.

3. Find Public Wi-Fi

Depending on where you find yourself when you need to get internet without a provider, you might be able to jump on a nearby public Wi-Fi network. Libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, and transport hubs often have networks you can join.

You can find nearby free Wi-Fi using apps like Wi-Fi Master Key on Android, and Wi-Fi Finder on iOS.

Note: If you decide to join a public Wi-Fi network, make sure you take steps to ensure your security and privacy are both safe. If you would like to learn more, check out our article on how to spot fake public Wi-Fi run by hackers How to Spot Fake "Evil Twin" Public Wi-Fi Networks Run by Hackers Not every Wi-Fi network you access is safe. Some of them might even be fake. Read on to learn about Rogue APs and Evil Twins. Read More .

Download: Wi-Fi Master Key for Android (Free)

Download: Wi-Fi Finder for iOS (Free)

4. Wi-Fi USB Dongle

A Wi-Fi USB dongle, a.k.a., an “internet stick,” is a cheaper and more accessible version of a mobile hotspot. Instead of committing to an expensive long-term mobile internet plan, you can insert a standard 3G or 4G SIM card and use its data connection.

ZTE MF833V USB Dongle Adapter ZTE MF833V USB Dongle Adapter Buy Now On Amazon $59.99

Because internet sticks for laptops are lighter and smaller than mobile hotspots, they are better suited for people who need a web connection while traveling. On the downside, don’t expect signal strength, Wi-Fi speed, or range to be as good as when using a hotspot device.

To learn more, check out our piece on the best Wi-Fi USB adaptors.

5. Share Someone’s Internet

windows hotspot connection

There’s a chance that someone else in your party might have an internet connection on their machine. For example, perhaps they have login credentials for a nearby private network, and you do not.

In those cases, you can share the bandwidth with a Windows or macOS machine.

To share an internet connection from a Windows computer, go to Settings > Network and internet > Mobile Hotspot. Choose the connection you want to share and slide the toggle into the On position.

If you need to share an internet connection from a macOS device, go to Apple > System Preferences > Internet Sharing. Choose the connection you want to share in the Share your connection from the drop-down menu, then select how you want to share the internet from the list of options underneath.

Learn More About Using Wi-Fi

The best way to get Wi-Fi without an internet connection depends on where you are and how you want to use the connection.

People who do a lot of work on-the-go should consider a fully-fledged mobile hotspot. Occasional casual users might want to use tethering or buy an internet stick. In rural areas, you can get online through wireless internet.

If you would like more information about using Wi-Fi, check our articles on the different types of Wi-Fi security and how to fix slow Wi-Fi speeds Does Your Wi-Fi Speed Drop? Here’s Why and 7 Tips to Fix It Want to speed up your Wi-Fi? Follow these methods to fix slow internet speeds that are spoiling your time online. Read More .

Related topics: Bandwidth, ISP, Mobile Broadband, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Hotspot.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Vicky
    June 13, 2020 at 12:18 am

    I live on the beach and have an iPhone with Verizon. The other day, I quit Comcast, but my phone now has a lousy connection even on data. My bill with Comcast for all three things was $251. That was it for me. Done. But I need something cheap.

  2. George Earl Martin
    February 9, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Your header is very misleading. Nothing is ever free!

  3. Toni O. King
    February 23, 2019 at 5:26 am

    Amazing to read that America does not have country wide cover for internet, not even mobile. Kenya does.

    Amazing to read that the cost of normal internet is USD 60+ Per month, while it is USD 16 in Most of EU, it's USD 29 in Kenya, it's for free in Sweden and Korea (and likely many places in the world too).

    Amazing to read that the mobile internet does not really cover in remote locations in USA. Neither does it in locations of various kind in EU, however on mountain rich Kenya, you cannot find a spot without workable mobile connection and workable internet.

    Americans should begin to find out the dire consequences of their immensely increased cost of living based on an inhumane legalese and inhumane health cost and corrupt building contractors. All of this boils down to that service providers of essential services have (much!) Higher operational costs, hence they are not competitive, hence these costs will be piled on top of any services they offer, hence all pricing in USA goes up.

    It must be disappointing to be an American, with school fees for just normal schools cost through the roof, public schooling does not deliver, health cost being the most expensive.in the world (Augmentin costing ie 75 times more than in Kenya for the same quality product), corrupt police officers, a legal system nobody can overview and nobody can afford, ... And yet, the most recent one: Mexicans and south Americans must be rather stupid wanting to live and work in America, as they may be riding on news from ancient times. The facts are that living in USA is not the dream it was. It simply cannot be: The Americans fearfully elected Trump. That in itself is a proof. And the building of the wall is a gift to Mexico. Otherwise Mexico would have had to build it, itself, when Americans in a few decades will start leaving USA.

    • darrin
      April 22, 2019 at 3:51 am

      america is f,,,,,,,ked up its all about money here.

    • Mike
      May 31, 2019 at 1:16 pm

      Wow....quite the rant, I agree with most of it. I do hope you realize that the only person in the last generation working to right some of the wrongs you list, has been under sustained attack for 2+ years now. Pres Trump is viscerally hated in D.C. for a reason - he is a threat to their surveillance state utopia. California is on track to crash & burn economically due to mass 3rd world immigration. The Kenya you seem to be so fond of can happen here, as long as we continue to elect the gimme-dats with their deep-state benefactors. They want what will never happen without grave suffering and much death: a one-world utopia. There is no Eldorado kids. Stop believing the mind-control crap coming from the 'news' media and think for yourselves. Liberty and meritocracy are the only things that work for humans. South America has abundant resources and should be an economic engine equal to us. Their governmental systems hold them back - its glaringly obvious - yet half the US population wants their systems? It has taken a generation to brainwash us to this degree but it is taking hold I'm afraid. The government that gives you stuff, can (and will) take stuff away. Fend for yourself, help your neighbor, tell big brother to eff off. This is the most generous country in the history of the world. It is well documented. We need to term-limit our national politicians. We need to demand far more of them than the B.S. time wasting we get. We need to return to a citizen-government. THAT is what the discussion should be about. They give us fake controversy and theater to distract us from the real problems and issues. I wish the young people would see this! So frustrating.....

      • Adm
        June 2, 2019 at 5:07 pm

        Thank info. From this, i happened to read: Kenya helped by Huawei to build ICT/digital development.

      • Dewey
        August 28, 2019 at 5:15 pm

        Bravo!! Excellent points! I only wish I would have said them myself. You are absolutely right! Too many young people wanting to go on Social security at the ripe old age of 18 - 20. Gimme mine now they say! The US is 17 times bigger than Kenya, while the US has less than 6 times the population. Why would we have Internet everywhere? That's ridiculous. I'll keep my wide open spaces thank you very much! Kenya sounds like New York city X50. Yuk! What an awful way to live.

      • Bill Stinson
        October 13, 2019 at 9:22 pm

        Hey Mike you are a 100 percent spot on and yes the youngins need to have a clue in a major way, government needs to work for the people instead of their own interests, i do believe that what we learned in school. great post

    • Dewey
      August 28, 2019 at 4:39 pm

      America has it's problems I will agree. The number one problem is greed. The 2nd is too many new laws on the books when the current laws aren't enforced. I think you're misinformed about corrupt police although it happens everywhere to a limited degree. We aren't as bad as Mexico or points South otherwise they wouldn't want to come here. The wall and Trump are symbolic of a nation wanting the existing laws enforced and Americans not wanting this country turned into Mexico but there are places (California, Nevada, New Mexico) where it may be too late. America has its issues but having or not having Internet is not something where I'm looking for my next meal. I'll keep America and you can keep Kenya. I've been several countries and ALWAYS want to be back in America. You can't eat the Internet and I never go hungry, do you? The fact you compare your country to USA says a mouthful. Me think though protests too much.

  4. Debra S.
    February 22, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    That ATT hotspot? SO BAD. Wow. Completely useless for a home. Tried it- was so bad, kids do their homework nowadays online- no one could do their work! It was so bad I can't complain about it loud enough. Forget it, do NOT let ATT talk you into it...

  5. Chelle
    February 22, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    I agree with the others. This article is woefully incomplete to be of use to anyone. I would love to scrap my cable internet provider. I would love to know about other Internet providers that are cheaper AND have the same or better network speed. Write that article!

    • pdxwildchild
      April 20, 2019 at 12:18 am

      Amen Sista !!!

  6. Matt
    February 22, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    This from a senior writer? A fifth grader could have given me a better article. Even better is when you read his bio... "Prior to his writing career, he was a Financial Consultant." Wow, you obviously failed as a financial advisor (especially with your tips in this article lol) and seriously, you need to find something your actually good at. Writing isn't one of them neither! Click and bait article (with no information that actually makes sense or worthwhile). You should change your name to Dan PRICELESS!

    • Dan Price
      February 22, 2019 at 5:11 pm

      Lol.

    • Dewey
      August 28, 2019 at 5:19 pm

      The article provided nothing that wasn't already available (easily) on the Internet. Use someone else's Internet? really? How lame can you be? That's not a solution that's BS.

  7. Aenul
    February 22, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    Bulls

  8. Josh
    February 19, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    I like how 3 of these tips are basically "get an Internet service provider (but mobile)" and the other two are "use somebody else's".

    What a waste of an article.

    • Drew
      February 23, 2019 at 1:53 am

      No. Sh*t. The answer to the question “Can you use the internet withouy an ISP?” is “No.” And this from MUO?? They’re articles have been getting increasingly bad. Probably time to unsubscribe.

      • Dewey
        August 28, 2019 at 5:21 pm

        I didn't know you could subscribe! I stumbled on this article looking for ISPs. I thought there might be some good information - see what I get for thinking? LOL

  9. Poopy
    February 18, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Misleading title, bad like vox and huffpo. Poop article.

  10. Thomas Milne
    February 18, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Wi-fi ? internet.
    This article is all wrong.
    "Here’s how to get W-Fi without an internet service provider."
    And then every example uses and ISP as it is impossible to avoid using an ISP.
    And if $60 is too much then why use mobile data? It cost more!
    Wi-fi is just an access point.

    • DRoberts
      March 18, 2019 at 6:26 pm

      The children of America have terrible grammar and spelling. I shudder the day when all messages are made up of imogis...

      • crazycat89
        September 14, 2019 at 12:59 am

        Haha, I agree with you, but you should have proofread your own comment. It's emojis, not imogis, lmao

  11. Mott Given
    February 18, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    I don't understand how this would save you any money? This article does not factor in the cost of the mobile internet plan, and by the time you add that cost it is just as expensive or more than paying an ISP.

    • A Fraser
      February 19, 2019 at 12:30 am

      Pretty stupid article. Pretty much click bait. How is a cellular provider providing internet any different than paying for any other type of internet and also suggesting additional hardware and also would end up being way more expensive in the end.

      • Bob
        February 22, 2019 at 3:24 pm

        Anyone here remember when MUO was a good site and had good articles instead of just click bait?
        What a complete and total waste this site has become!