How to Get Wi-Fi Without an Internet Provider

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Last Updated: Apr 3, 2024
Most internet providers give you a modem and router when you sign up for an internet plan.
  • Free public Wi-Fi is the most common way but be sure to use a VPN to safely connect to the network.
  • Don’t forget to toggle on your mobile hotspot via your cell phone plan to connect to Wi-Fi.
  • A cheaper alternative to an upgraded cell phone plan is a portable internet device.

The internet is an invaluable resource that most of us need on a daily basis. If you don’t have an internet connection at home or you’re traveling to a place with no Wi-Fi or a poor connection, you might be wondering: “How can I get Wi-Fi right now?”

If that’s the case, we got you covered. Thankfully, there are a number of ways that you can get connected to Wi-Fi, depending on your unique situation.

What Is Wi-Fi, and How Do You Get It?

Wi-Fi is a wireless internet network that uses radio frequency signals to connect your devices to the internet. Typically, this is done using a modem and router that are connected to the internet via wires; however, it can be achieved utilizing other methods.

Most homes are connected to Wi-Fi by purchasing an internet plan from an internet service provider (ISP) and then subsequently installing an internet modem provided by the ISP. This modem may then be connected to a router (if there isn’t one built-in) that will broadcast a Wi-Fi signal throughout your home.

If you’re not home or don’t have an ISP, you may have to get a little creative. Thankfully, getting connected to the internet without a home internet provider isn’t impossible.

Wi-Fi Without an Internet Provider — Is It Really Possible?

While the most reliable way to get connected at home for long periods of time is signing up with an ISP, it’s not necessarily right for everyone. If you’re away from home, in between homes, or just don’t want to get internet installed due to extra costs and hidden fees or some other reason, you could benefit from Wi-Fi without an internet provider.

While it could take a bit of effort or creativity, getting Wi-Fi without an internet provider is certainly possible.

How to Get Free Wi-Fi Using Public Networks

Free Wi-Fi is becoming more readily available by the day. As our world becomes more reliant on internet connections, more businesses, public spaces, and governments in certain states are doing their part to provide free Wi-Fi in as many places as possible.

If you live in a metropolitan or suburban area, chances are you have a number of public Wi-Fi networks close to your home. Many people’s homes are even located within reach of public or unsecured Wi-Fi signals.

If you aren’t sure if you live within reach of a public Wi-Fi signal or not, just open up your device’s Wi-Fi settings and take a look at what networks are in range. If any of them are unsecured, they will not request a password when you attempt to connect to them.

Even if you don’t live close to a public Wi-Fi signal, you’ll be able to access the internet for free at most coffee shops and restaurants nearby. Some restaurants require you to purchase something in order to access their Wi-Fi, but many don’t require a purchase of any kind — especially large chain restaurants such as McDonald’s and Starbucks.

A Warning About Public Wi-Fi Networks

ExpressVPN UI

While connecting to public Wi-Fi can be convenient — and free — there are some security concerns. If someone wants to gain access to your sensitive files, they might be able to do so if they’re connected to the same unsecured Wi-Fi signal as you. In order to protect your information and privacy while surfing on public Wi-Fi, you should install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN on your computer. VPNs secure your connection by obscuring your activity from your ISP and others connected to the same network. There are a number of low-cost and free VPNs to choose from as well as premium paid options.

Bumming Wi-Fi From Your Neighbors

This method might seem the same as the above method, but that’s only true if your neighbors are using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection — which is unlikely.

If you have a good relationship with your neighbors and your internet is out only temporarily, then you may be able to ask them to give you or share the password and explain your situation. However, if you don’t want to get your own internet plan and want to connect to your neighbor’s internet for the long term, you may need to broker a deal with them.

First, you may want to consider how many people are living in your neighbor’s house, what their internet speeds are like, and the connection speed from your home. If your neighbor lives alone or with their spouse and you suspect that they have a fast internet speed that can support all three of you easily, then they’re an ideal candidate.

You may be able to offer to pay for a portion of the internet on a monthly basis for access to their Wi-Fi password. In this case, some nicer neighbors may let you connect for free if they’re understanding of your situation. In either case, whether they want you to pay or not, you can still sometimes broker a deal that makes your monthly internet bill extremely manageable.

Using a Mobile Hotspot for Wi-Fi

While using a mobile hotspot isn’t necessarily free, there’s a good chance that your cell phone plan already includes a mobile hotspot feature — so turning it on might equate to being “free” if you weren’t using it before.

Most new smartphones have a built-in hotspot feature that needs to be enabled while connected to service from your cell phone service provider — provided that you are paying for a plan that includes a mobile hotspot. This will allow any nearby devices to connect wirelessly to the internet.

Notes to keep in mind when using a mobile hotspot:

  • You’re powering your Wi-Fi connection with your mobile data. This means that if you have expensive or limited data, you can quickly use it up while connected to your hotspot. If you have cheap or unlimited data, then that makes the mobile hotspot a great Wi-Fi option.
  • You should set a password for your mobile hotspot to increase security. If you don’t, you can expose yourself to bad actors and unwanted connections using up your cellular data.
  • Depending on your service provider, you may also have the option to physically tether your devices as opposed to using Wi-Fi to share your cellular data with your other devices.

Wireless Hotspot vs. Cable Tethering

Instead of creating a mobile hotspot, you can tether your mobile device to your computer via a USB cable. This can provide you with internet access on your computer by using the data from your mobile device. This is a viable alternative to hotspots if you only have one device to connect — it can also potentially provide faster speeds than Wi-Fi.

You should also keep in mind that a physical tether uses your cellular data the same way as a hotspot, so if you have limited data, you should keep an eye on your internet usage to not exceed your limit.

Can You Buy a Portable Wi-Fi Modem?

Most of us think of a Wi-Fi modem as being stuck in one spot in your home connected to the wall via cable or phone lines. While that’s true in most cases, mobile Wi-Fi modems are somewhat commonplace.

This portable internet device (a hotspot separate from your smartphone) provides coverage with a data plan powered by a mobile broadband provider. This can be potentially cheaper than upgrading your cell phone plan to include unlimited data to accommodate hotspot usage.

Portable hotspots are typically small enough to fit in a pocket or purse and provide high-speed internet wherever you are.

Getting Internet Through Data or Wi-Fi Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

If you need the internet because you’re away from home, don’t want to pay for an internet plan, or are finding it difficult to get connected in a conventional way, you have a number of alternative options to get yourself connected.

Here’s a brief recap below of how you can get connected to the internet without an internet service provider:

  • Connect to public unsecured Wi-Fi using a VPN for security.
  • Use a new or existing mobile hotspot feature from one of your mobile devices.
  • Buy a portable internet device.

Your decision to choose one of the above options will likely be based on your very unique situation, desires, location, budget, and available options depending on what your local internet service providers are offering in your area.