How to Get Free or Cheap Internet Access
It is not unusual to pay $15 to $70 a month for cable or DSL Internet service in your home. The lower price is normally obtained by bundling your Internet with other services, such as your home phone and cable television. If you are looking to reduce your monthly expenses but still want to use the Internet, here are some ways you can get free or cheap Internet access. (See also: Cutting the Cable Cord Has More Than Financial Benefits)
Consider Dial-Up Internet
If you don’t use the Internet frequently or don’t have a need for lightning-fast service, you may consider using dial-up Internet service instead of DSL, cable, or FIOS. You can get dial-up Internet for as low as $9.99 a month through NetZero, provided you live in an area the company services. Juno advertises a dial-up plan for $10.95 a month. EarthLink offers a plan for as low as $12.50 a month if you prepay for a year at a time.
Internet Service Through Your Cell Phone Provider
If you already have a cell phone plan, you might save money by using a data plan through your cell phone company rather than having both a cell phone plan and a separate Internet service. Verizon charges between $50 and $100 a month for a cell phone and data plan, depending how much data you use per month. For some people, even the higher price of $100 a month for a data plan and phone service with Verizon would be less expensive than their existing monthly phone service and separate monthly Internet service bills. Verizon also offers a prepaid service for unlimited talk, text, and a data plan starting at $50 per month with no annual contract. If you don’t like the idea of checking your email or social media accounts on your phone, you can often use the cellular data plans through other device, including tablets or laptop computers, by turning your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Limit Your Internet Use to Free Wi-Fi Locations
If you’re not a college student, finding free Wi-Fi can be challenging if you are looking for an always-on, always-available location. If you don’t have an absolute need for Internet access in your home, you can get free Internet access from most public libraries. For some people, the library is conveniently located on their way to or from work and could easily take the place of Internet at home if you are someone who only uses the Internet for email or for occasional research.
If you have a wireless-enabled device such as a laptop, phone, or tablet, you can find free Wi-Fi through a variety of coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, and even some bars. Use a site like Wi-Fi FreeSpot to search for free Wi-Fi locations according to your location or where you plan to travel.
Internet for Low-Income Americans
There are government programs that exist to provide free or cheap Internet service for lower-income Americans. The availability of programs depends on location, availability of funds, and the applicant’s income level. The FCC announced a program called “Connect to Compete,” which will provide low-cost computers to low-income homes, and Internet access for $9.99 a month.
You may also have luck finding a program for low-income Americans on CheapInternet.com, as well as a listing of possible free Internet programs on this page (while I’m pretty sure the “Google TISP” was an elaborate April Fool’s joke that went a little too far, the other options for possible free Internet look legitimate).