How to find free Wi-Fi hotspots near you while working away from home

  • The best way to find free Wi-Fi hotspots near you is by using an app on your phone that has access to a large database of hotspots.
  • Your internet service provider (ISP) might also make local hotspots available at no additional cost. 
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The dirty little secret of cellular plans is that many of us don't need unlimited service. With ready access to Wi-Fi at home, at work, and many places in between, it's often possible to stay connected with free Wi-Fi without ever dipping into cellular service. 

Unfortunately, there's an important point that bears mentioning: While under normal circumstances free Wi-Fi is plentiful and easy to find, we are currently living through a time in which indoor seating for many establishments is closed or significantly reduced. As a result, many restaurants and stores that would ordinarily offer free Wi-Fi are not operating their public Wi-Fi networks. Moreover, if Wi-Fi is available, seating capacity is generally reduced significantly due to social distancing rules. You should weigh the health risks carefully before you choose to visit a public Wi-Fi network. 

Here's how to stay connected and online by finding Wi-Fi hotspots near you, no matter where you are. 

How to find free Wi-Fi hotspots near you using your phone 

If you frequently need to find Wi-Fi away from home, you should have a Wi-Fi finder app installed on your phone. These apps rely on large, often open-source databases to help you find a nearby hotspot. 

There are many apps you could choose from, both free and paid. If you have an iPhone, try WiFi Finder, available for both the iPhone and Android. It's a free app that displays thousands of Wi-Fi hotspot locations on a live map. There's also a paid subscription available if you need the maps and data available offline. 

How to find free Wi-Fi at local restaurants and coffee shops 

Ordinarily, there are countless free Wi-Fi hotspots operating globally, and tens of thousands in the US. Many of these are at restaurants and coffee shops — in fact, in many cities, you can expect Wi-Fi to be available at a variety of businesses. 

Generally, these locations are also included in the Wi-Fi finder app databases, but you can search directly for stores like Starbucks and McDonald's. 

Starbucks offers free Wi-Fi at all of its locations, and you can use the Starbucks locator within the Starbucks app for iPhone or Starbucks app for Android. There is also a Starbucks locator on the web you can open in a browser.

Not all MacDonald's locations feature Wi-Fi, but the McDonald's app for iPhone and McDonald's app for Android have a location search tool that clearly indicates which stores have Wi-Fi. 

How to find free Wi-Fi from your internet provider

Several major internet service providers (ISPs) offer Wi-Fi hotspots as an additional feature with your internet subscription. ISPs like Spectrum, Xfinity and Cox Communication all offer versions of this service. To take advantage, you'll generally need to install an app from your ISP. For more information, contact your ISP or check the website for details on availability and how to connect. 

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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  • How to forget a Wi-Fi network on your Android device and stop automatically connecting to certain networks

  • 'Why won't my PC connect to Wi-Fi?': 6 ways to troubleshoot your Windows computer's internet connection

  • 'What is Wi-Fi calling?': How to make phone calls from anywhere using a Wi-Fi connection

  • How to turn on Wi-Fi on your Windows 10 computer in 3 ways

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