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On average, people in the United States spend about $65 a month on internet service, although that amount may vary depending on the connection type. That’s a pretty good amount, and given the economic conditions in the post-COVID world, it’s not affordable for many.

So what’s the solution? Should we just stop using the internet? But, how would you go on even for a day without something that has become a basic necessity? The answer is you don’t stop using the internet. Rather look for a way around this dilemma. Because technological advancements have actually made it possible for you to access Wi-Fi without an internet provider. And, there are ways that allow you to enjoy access to the internet without cable or phone.

Yes, you read that right! Getting Wi-Fi without an internet provider is not mission impossible. But before we tell you how that’s possible, let’s run you through some basics first.

Let’s Understand A Few Things First

The Internet

We know how comical it sounds to ask someone whether they know what the internet is. However, we are sure there are certain facts about this great invention that a lot of us still don’t know.

For example, did you know the internet was conceived by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and was initially known as ARPANet? Unlike modern-day internet which allows communication on a wide scale, ARPANet was used primarily to facilitate a communication link between computers at Pentagon-funded research institutions.

The difference between the internet and ARPANet might be huge, however, there are certain areas where the two are quite similar. Both ARPANet and the internet establish communication between computers through Transfer/Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet protocol (IP).

Internet protocol is responsible for obtaining the address to which data is being delivered, while the Transfer control protocol is responsible for ensuring data delivery once the IP address has been determined. Both these protocols work in conjunction to transmit data in the form of encrypted packages over the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web

The World Wide Web, also known as the web, is the main portal from where information is retrieved via the internet. It is through the web that users get access to various documents and other resources when they connect to it. The process of identifying these web resources is conducted by Uninform Source Locators (URLs) which may be interlinked with hypertext and can be accessed via the internet.

Hyperlinking involves creation of electronic communication between web pages through specific links. These links connect the information available on various pages. That is why when you select a word or a phrase that has been hyperlinked, you get access to additional information related to that phrase and word.

Web resources are transferred by Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and are accessed by users via a software application named the web browser—another software application called the web server is responsible for publishing these resources.

Quite often the World Wide Web is mistaken as a synonym of the internet whereas the two are different entities—internet had already been conceived and was in use about two decades before the Web was built. And, the construction of the World Wide Web in fact employed networking technologies already in use.

The Internet Service Provider

The internet service provider (ISP) is the ‘common name’ used for a company that provides users with access to the internet via its network. You can think of an ISP as a gateway to the internet—it is the link that connects your computer to servers via the internet.

To better understand how ISPs link you up consider what happens when you send an email to a friend of yours. You type in the content, put in the email address, and send it. This email first goes from your computer to your internet service provider’s server. That server then transfers the data over an electronic path to its final destination—a process that occurs within a few seconds.

Wireless Internet Providers

As the name suggests, wireless internet providers offer services to people via wireless networking. The process is similar to how wired broadband connects users to the internet backbone, but instead of using copper lines or coaxial and fiber optic cables to connect over the “last mile”, wireless providers make use of wireless mesh networking tech or patented equipment in order to transmit data over licensed radio frequencies to the user end. Once data from your computer or mobile device is translated into radio signals via the wireless adapter, and reaches a cell or transmission tower, a connection with the internet is established and your cell phone or another enabled device goes online.

There are various technologies that constitute wireless networks, but essentially they are all radio systems—whether mobile wireless (2G, 3G, 4G, LTE or 5G), satellite, fixed wireless or Wi-Fi. And, each banks on an infrastructure that is both wired and wireless—the base station is connected to a high capacity landline data transmission network to reach the internet backbone while transmission or cell towers are employed to connect to the user end via radio signals.

With the evolution of cellular technology over the years, mobile wireless providers have become very popular. Most of them own an infrastructure of cell towers and/or satellites that help provide 4G and now 5G services to customers.

For the uninitiated, a 4G service allows customers to surf the internet fast on enabled devices like mobile phones, tablets, and laptops—they can thus stream videos and access social media websites at swift speeds. The next step in the evolution of wireless transmission services is 5G. 5G is the fifth generation technology standard for cellular networks, which has been designed to transmit data at a higher speed and with reduced latency. High-level performance and increased network capacity are the hallmarks of 5G services. Companies started deploying 5G service back in 2019 and in 2020 Mobile Broadband providers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Spectrum are already facilitating residents of 30 U.S. cities with 5G services—some are using the sub-6GHz band to provide 5G coverage over a wider region, while others are employing the mmWave 5G tech for coverage in densely populated urban centers.

What is Wi-Fi?

Contrary to what you might have been told, Wi-Fi does not stand for Wireless Fidelity. That was a branding term coined for the IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence protocol in 1999—and was intended as a pun on the acronym hi-fi (High Fidelity), a term related to high quality audio technology. A more accurate way to look at Wi-Fi would be to consider it like an umbrella that covers various wireless network protocols based on the IEEE 802.11 family of standards.

Wi-Fi technology incorporates radio waves and frequencies for transmission of data over a short range—and is often used in combination with wired or non-wired internet connections in order to get multiple devices wirelessly connected in a house, workplace or community places like airports, coffee shops, schools etc. A two-way radio communication, similar to what we discussed earlier, takes place—devices are connected to the internet using a radio link between the user and the service provider. Nowadays all new mobile devices and computers come enabled to detect a wireless network, however a wireless adapter can be used separately as well.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

Wi-Fi hotspots are physical locations where people are able to connect to the internet over a Wi-Fi network—in other words, any area where a wireless network is accessible automatically makes a hotspot. Users are able to connect to the internet via their mobile devices like cell phones and laptops over a wireless local area network (WLAN)— a wireless gateway or router sits at the heart of a Wi-Fi network, and connects devices on WLAN to the internet service provider’s network.

Tethering

Suppose you want to share your mobile data connection with another device like a laptop or a tablet. You can do so via tethering—the process, also known as PAM, uses a cell phone like a modem, and allows you to share a mobile broadband connection with other devices over WLAN, Bluetooth, or a physical connection via a USB cable. In other words, your mobile device serves as a wireless gateway that helps Wi-Fi enabled devices in range to establish an internet connection.

So, there you have it! You are now aware of the basic terminology that would help you better understand the answer to the question “can I get Wi-Fi without an internet provider?” With this step out of the way, we can now proceed to telling you exactly how you can do that.

Ways to Get Wi-Fi without an Internet Provider

Mobile Hotspot

Unlike Wi-Fi hotspots, mobile hotspots are not limited to a specific physical location. You can create a mobile hotspot wherever you want, as long as you have a mobile phone or a tab that has the ability to act as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, and you are subscribed to a cellular data plan. The mobile hotspot feature on a device helps you share your data plan with other devices connected to it—essentially, a mobile hotspot device generates Wi-Fi signals enabling users to connect to the internet via cellular data. Standalone hotspot devices are also available in the market.

If you choose this route, you would have to make a one-time investment in a device that can act as a mobile hotspot (if you don’t already own one), and you must also subscribe to a cellular data plan. However, the accumulative cost of this option does end up being lower than buying a monthly plan from a wired or wireless internet provider.

Remember, a couple of cautions must be practiced if you are going to use a mobile hotspot as your primary source of connecting to the internet. For instance data consumption and network security must be kept an eye on.

If you have an unlimited data plan, you are good to feed connected devices without the worry of exceeding the data limit. But, if the plan you are subscribed to is capped, you must monitor data usage and practice caution. Remember, when it comes to internet browsing, laptops consume more data than cell phones. Moreover, when you are using a mobile hotspot you must set up a password to keep uninvited users at bay.

Swift and fast internet without cable can thus be accessed via a mobile hotspot. Do keep in mind multiple devices can connect to a hotspot, but the number of connected devices can affect the internet speed.

Tethering

In principle, tethering is quite similar to mobile hotspots. In both cases, you use your mobile device as a modem and connect other devices to the internet through it. However, what separates tethering from mobile hotspots is that in the case of the former you use a USB cable to connect another device to your mobile device. Although, you still access and connect to the internet through your cellular data.

Tethering has more limitations than mobile hotspots. It can work well for you if you do not need to access the internet on your laptop on a regular basis, rather only occasionally. In case you choose to go this way on a more regular basis, we would recommend you subscribe to an unlimited data plan or else practice vigilance as far as data consumption is concerned.

As we said earlier, laptops use more data for various online activities relative to a smartphone. So, if you are going to utilize cellular data via tethering for emailing, browsing and social media, you may not face a problem, but if you want to stream or transfer large data files, tethering may not be the best choice.

Tethering however, triumphs over mobile hotspots in terms of battery consumption—because when connected to the laptop your mobile device gets charged too. Also, no one can hack into your network since your laptop connects via a cable, and for that reason you also get better speed than what you get via a Wi-Fi mobile hotspot.

Public Wi-Fi

Just imagine living in a city where you can get free high-speed internet without cable or a phone line! Perth, Barcelona, Seoul, Moscow and New York City are just some examples of cities around the world that offer free Wi-Fi. In some cases, Wi-Fi access is offered over a wide area while in other cases coverage is relatively restricted. Also, you may be able to find private Wi-Fi hotspots that will give you access to fast internet for much cheaper than what you may have to pay for a cellular data plan.

But, of course not everyone lives in cities that have government funded free Wi-Fi hotspot networks available, or in areas where a cheap private Wi-Fi hotspot may be accessible. For residents of such cities and towns the option of using Wi-Fi in public places like shopping malls, bars, restaurants, libraries, parks etc. is always there. The downside is you can only connect when in the range of such a public Wi-Fi network.

Android and iOS users can also use certain apps like the Wi-Fi Master Key and Wi-Fi Finder to locate free Wi-Fi near them. However, remember not to provide or exchange any sensitive information when using Public Wi-Fi—we’d in fact recommend you use VPN to remain anonymous.

Wi-Fi USB Dongle

The Wi-Fi USB dongle aka “the internet stick” can be best described as a cheaper and more convenient version of a mobile hotspot and tethering. These are small USB devices that use SIM cards to allow you to connect to the internet. Like mobile hotspots, the connection is established via a wireless mobile broadband provider.

A Wi-Fi USB Dongle lets you stream videos and transfer large data files conveniently, whether you plug it directly into your laptop or connect to the Wi-Fi network created by it. We’d recommend you use a 4G connection for a better experience. The speed of the connection, and the quality of the signal will however depend on the service you receive from your mobile broadband provider. Remember in terms of speed, signal strength and range a Wi-Fi USB Dongle may not be as good as a mobile hotspot device.

Sharing an Internet Connection

Let’s be honest, quite often when we want to connect our smartphones or laptops to the internet, we do tend to scan for available Wi-Fi networks. And whenever we do that, we come across quite a few Wi-Fi networks available near us. Most are password protected, but every once in a while your luck strikes and you come across a connection that does not require a password. If that happens, you can share that open connection—though with caution as you would with Public Wi-Fi networks.

You also have the option of reaching out to your neighbors—and request them to share their connection—may be you could offer to exchange chores, as scores of students in the U.S. prefer to do. However, it would be courteous to ask them about the kind of package they have—after all, the last thing you need is making your neighbors incur additional cost. You can also discuss the option of splitting the bill on an internet connection with your neighbors. This way you can get Wi-Fi without an internet provider, and save money at the same time!

On the side note, friends are a better avenue to share an internet connection with. So, perhaps before you try out your neighbors, you should ask a friend and pool in for an internet connection that the two of you can share.

Free Trials

There are some internet providers that offer free trial services as well. All you need to do is find these providers—if you Google the search query “internet provider free trial”, you may just land one such free trial offer. Usually, dial-up internet providers offer free hours—albeit in this time and age that would not be an appealing option. But, who knows, you may just get lucky, and land an entire month of a free trial with a more viable connection type.

Sometimes you may be required to enter credit card details to set up an account before you can begin the trial period. In these situations, all you have to do is cancel the subscription, once the trial period ends. Failure to do so will lead to deduction of money from your bank account.

School or Employer Offers

There are some schools and employers who offer students and employees free internet service on the premises. So, if you belong to either one of these segments, we would suggest you explore available options—this way you will get Wi-Fi without an internet provider.

All in All…

Recent statistics have shown mobile usage is at an all-time high. In 2019, cell phones were estimated to make up 53.3% of internet traffic. Since the majority of people use smartphones to connect with the internet, this alone highlights the need for a strong Wi-Fi connection—making it all the more necessary to explore ways you can access high-speed internet without cable or phone.

As we have seen, there are in fact a myriad of options out there to explore through which you can get access to internet without cable or phone, meaning without added expense. So go ahead and choose either one of the aforementioned methods and get Wi-Fi without an internet provider.

The problem of internet providers often offer bundles which include cable, phone, and TV services. The customers have the choice to either opt for the bundle or just get the internet without cable or phone. One internet provider that you can count on for reliable internet services is Spectrum.

Here let us add one interesting fact to add to your knowledge data base. All of us think Wi-Fi is just used to connect to the internet. What a lot of us don’t know is that Wi-Fi can also be used to connect devices without there being a need to connect to the internet. Sure this wouldn’t allow you to transfer data via the internet, but it will enable data sharing between the devices on the network.

A Final Word

Having explored options to get Wi-Fi without and internet provider and without cable or phone, if you find, for any number of reasons, your household requirements cannot be fulfilled adequately without an internet provider, we would suggest you look for a rich in value option available in your area.

Renowned ISPs in the U.S. like Charter Spectrum™, Mediacom Cable, and Cox Communications service a number of states with their upgraded hybrid fiber-coaxial networks, delivering speeds comparable to fiber optic broadband yet at competitive prices. The likes of AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications and Windstream, provide high-speed DSL internet via IPBB connections, as well as pure fiber optic internet in select regions—their plans bring good value for your money. And just in case, you are outside the reach of any of these nationwide wired networks, you can benefit from satellite internet from HughesNet—Gen-5 internet from the satellite internet provider may sound a little pricey, but overall you get good value in return of your investment.

Before we go, let us add, if you happen to be in a neighborhood that is served by Grande Communications, RCN, Wave or WOW! you are very fortunate—these cable providers sure have a smaller coverage area, but for that reason it is easier to land a deal which is so inexpensive yet so worth it, it may just make your fellow countrymen in other parts of the U.S. very envious!

With that said, we wish you all the luck in your journey to get Wi-Fi without an internet provider.