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How to get free Internet

Several service providers are challenging the status quo and offering cheap -- even free -- wireless Internet.

By Stacy Johnson Mar 8, 2013 4:00PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News logoI pay $45 a month for home broadband Internet and another $20 a month for 2GB of 4G data on my smartphone. That's $65 a month and $780 a year just to browse the Web.

 

If it were up to me, the Internet would always be free and I could use it anytime I want. I'm betting that's not going to happen anytime soon, but there are free options for the casual Internet user. 

Two service providers -- FreedomPop and NetZero -- are giving away limited amounts of free data every month. So if you're an Internet junkie, you can now find dirt-cheap access that lets you connect anywhere you go.

 

FreedomPop

Woman sitting on steps with smartphone © Image Source, Image Source, Getty ImagesWhen you sign up for FreedomPop, you'll get a small wireless access point. Anytime you want to browse the Web, turn it on, connect a computer or other device, and you're ready to go. You can connect up to 10 devices on one account, like laptops, smartphones and tablets. 

 

FreedomPop has different costs depending on how you browse the Web. First, you'll need to send a deposit for the Wi-Fi access point. FreedomPop has three options, ranging from $49.99 to $99. If you return the access point within a year, you'll get your money back. If you don't, the device is yours and you won't get your deposit.

 

For service, you get 500MB of 4G wireless Internet usage free a month. That isn't a lot, but you can do some basic things. For example, uSwitch says it takes 100KB to browse a Web page or read an email. Other things are bigger data hogs. Downloading a photo takes 2MB, downloading a song 5MB, and watching a video takes about 1MB per minute. Each of these things will use up 500MB:

  • Browse 5,000 Web pages.
  • Check 5,000 emails.
  • Download 250 photos.
  • Download 100 MP3s.
  • Watch about eight hours of online video.

It's probably enough for a very casual user, but if you use a streaming service like Netflix, download a lot of music, or stay online for hours at a time, you'll need more data.

 

FreedomPop has two options for that. One is a prepaid monthly service for a flat fee depending on how much data you need. However, the service terms say you’ll need to sign a contract (about two years) to get the best prices. Your other option is a pay-as-you-go service. You sign up for the free 500MB and if you go over, FreedomPop will charge you for the next tier of service -- $18 for 2GB of data.

 

The company is still beta testing so service isn't available everywhere. You can check for service where you live here

 

NetZero

NetZero also offers free Wi-Fi access. Once you buy a connection stick for $49.95 or a hotspot device for $99.95, you'll get 200MB free a month at 4G speeds. That's enough to browse a few thousand sites or check a few thousand emails, but not much else. You can earn more bandwidth by bringing in friends and doing things like answering surveys. Otherwise, you'll be paying extra.

 

If you need more data, NetZero has four monthly plans:

  • Basic -- 500MB for $9.95 a month.
  • Plus -- 1,000MB for $19.95.
  • Pro -- 2,000MB for $34.95.
  • Platinum -- 4,000MB for $49.95.

If you don't need unlimited data, NetZero is a viable (and cheap) option for Wi-Fi access, but the service area is limited. Currently, they mostly cover the East and West coasts and a few Southern states like Texas and Florida. You can see their coverage map on the NetZero homepage.

 

Clear

Clear doesn't offer free Internet access, but it does have affordable options if you need to connect on the go. You'll have to buy a connection device. Clear has four options:

  • Clear USB for laptops, $39.99.
  • Clear Stick Atlas for laptops and other devices, $39.99.
  • Clear Spot Voyager for connecting up to eight devices, $49.99.
  • Clear Hub Express for home Internet connections, $49.99.

Then you'll need to pick a monthly service plan:

  • 2GB plan -- $19.99 per month up to 4G speeds.
  • 4G Internet Basic -- $34.99 per month with unlimited data and download speeds up to 1.5 Mbps.
  • 4G Internet Plan -- $49.99 per month unlimited data with faster speeds, up to 6 Mbps.

You can check your address here to find out if service is available where you live. 

 

Karma

Karma is a pay-as-you-go service provider with a built-in option to earn free access, but it has some potential downsides.

 

Here's how it works: First, you buy the Karma hotspot, retailing for $79. The device lasts for six to eight hours on one charge and can connect up to eight devices at once. Once you have the device, you can buy data as you need it -- 1GB at a time for $14.

 

Karma has a Wi-Fi sharing feature that lets you earn free data. After you sign up, Karma will create an open Wi-Fi network under your account. Anytime someone else tries to connect to your network, Karma will prompt them to create their own account. If they do, you'll both get 100MB of free data.

 

Karma is offering 1GB of 4G data free for signing up, but you'll have to link your Facebook account to the Karma app page to purchase a hotspot. Karma also has a limited coverage area. Right now they're only in major cities like Boston, Los Angeles, Nashville and Dallas. You can check your address on their coverage map.

 

The bottom line: If you don't spend a lot of time browsing the Web, a free service like FreedomPop or NetZero might be a good choice, especially for the occasional user wanting to use a tablet in a car or at the beach.

 

If you need more data, NetZero and Clear are both cheaper than some major service providers. And if you care about speed, Clear's unlimited 4G Internet plan might be a good option.

 

In any case, it's about time someone challenged the ridiculous prices we're all forced to pay for something that's become a modern necessity.

 

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

14Comments
Mar 11, 2013 12:51PM
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Dear Stacy,

Your idea of FREE is much different than mine.

Mar 11, 2013 1:50PM
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Meanwhile, the video in this article loads automatically, eating up 5.5MB whether I want to watch it or not. 
Mar 11, 2013 11:13AM
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I spend $0/month.  I don't own a smartphone.  I seem to be getting by without one.
Mar 11, 2013 11:56AM
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This is all great...except they don't work where I live.

 

Mar 11, 2013 6:09PM
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I'm sorry but this doesn't exactly sound like "free".

Mar 10, 2013 12:28PM
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For $30 a month I get 5 GB at 4G speeds and then unlimited at slower speed after that.  Unlimited text and 100 minutes also.  You can use skype, talkatone or gvoice to talk unlimited over the 4G data connection also----I do it all the time and don't use any of my 100 talk minutes. 
Mar 12, 2013 11:09AM
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I got a smartphone but returned it after a few weeks.  I was told it was not refundable but after I spoke with the manager I got my money back.  I will never get another one.  I live the simple live for the most part.  Just about everyone I know spend tons of money to have all this bells and whistles.
Mar 11, 2013 2:47PM
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Before to long there will be a tent on your street corner advertising free obamanet.  You might as well stop in and sign up.  Your paying for it anyway.
Mar 10, 2013 11:15AM
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It never ceases t amaze me how foolish people continue to be.

With information abundantly available, people still refuse to use any brain power.

Long ago I switched to straight talk for one reasn. it is the very best deal with the

very best of everything attached.

For 42 a month, I get unlimited everything. Everything folks.

They wil even give you a free phone. Unlimited, talk, text and data. Everything.

Still stuck on stupid?

Get off the path.

For pc internet I pay 14.95 for the fastest internet service on the planet.

I own Ooma, so I pay nothing for phone.

I could go on, but most of you want to cntinue to throw your money away.

Mar 9, 2013 3:54AM
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I would add that Tracfone gives you a bare-bones smart phone (LG-800G) for $49.99 and 1200 minutes/year for $99.99.  You can buy more minutes at even a lower rate.  Using the internet is 1.5 minutes per actual minute, which works out to something like 14 cents per minute.  You can surf or navigate faster with apps.  You can't use iPhone or Android apps, but there are a lot of Java apps including those for Amazon.com, CBSSports.com fantasy football, etc.
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