Internet Service Providers give you access to the Internet, typically at a monthly cost. You don’t have to pay for these services, however, if you take advantage of many of the free Internet access options available to you. Some services allow you to bypass having your own ISP, while others substitute an ISP or give you limited access for free.

ISP Services

Every Internet connection you come across requires an ISP. These services operate the Internet by connecting to each other and to servers and databases all around the world. The investment and infrastructure needed to create a network has limited the number of ISPs. To become an ISP of your own, you need a large network of subscribers, and have to convince other major ISPs that their clients would benefit from connecting to your network. These broad requirements usually keeps individuals from becoming their own ISP.

Free Wi-Fi

One way to connect your laptop or mobile device to the Internet without signing up with an ISP is to look for public Wi-Fi networks in places such as coffee shops, schools, libraries and other public spaces. These networks are offered to provide patrons or citizens access to the Web to encourage commerce or help with things like homework. Free networks are typically not secure, however, so avoid accessing your bank account or other sensitive information while on them.

Phone Tethering

If you have a phone data plan and don’t want an ISP for your home use, you can tether your phone to your PC. This turns your phone into a virtual Wi-Fi hotspot and uses your phone’s data plan for all Web browsing. You can tether some phones using their native features, while others require you to download a tethering app. Tethering usually requires a 4G connection, and may cost you a small additional fee each month from your cell phone company.

Free Home Connections

If you don’t mind having an ISP but just don’t want to pay for service, you have some free options for your home connection. Companies like NetZero, Juno and FreedomPop offer home Internet connections at no cost (links in Resources). These services usually limit how much data you can access for free, and also display ads on your computer; however, you don’t need to sign up for a contract or pay money as long as you stay under the agreed data usage amount.