October 1, 2014

Guest Post: 5 Places Freelancers Can Access Free Wi-Fi

By Tim Sohn

If you live in a rural area like I do, chances are when the power or Internet goes down, it doesn’t come back on right away. Recently, here in Shohola, Pa., this happened to me twice. Being a freelancer, this poses a huge problem because the Internet is how I – and likely you — send your work to clients, whether it’s via email, a blogging platform, content management system, etc…

A few weeks ago, a storm shut down power to my little neck of the woods here for 26 hours. I had a similar issue just this week when my Internet service provider was having technical issues, and I couldn’t connect to the Internet. In the first scenario, my mother-in-law, who only lives about 40 minutes away, graciously let me come over bright and early with my 14-month-old in tow in the morning and use her wireless. In the second case, I ventured about a half-hour away and used Loews’ wireless Internet in the parking lot – this is the only wireless access nearby.

Whether you live in a rural or urban area, it’s critical that you make a list of alternate locations where you can access the Internet in case yours goes down at your home office.

It’s always great if you can find a family member or friend who has Wi-Fi, but if you can’t, here is a list of 5 places that offer gratis Wi-Fi access that will come in handy if you run into a pickle. (Note: I am not endorsing these businesses by including them in this list, but I do frequent Dunkin’ Donuts way too often):

  1. Public libraries: Check with your local public libraries to see if they offer free Wi-Fi. Not all of them do. You will likely need to be a member of the library to be granted access, and libraries often limit the amount of time you can use on computers so everybody gets a chance.
  2. Starbucks: Almost all Starbucks locations offer free Wi-Fi to customers through AT&T, and many of its stores have comfy chairs and couches, and tables, where you can sit with your laptop or mobile device.
  3. Dunkin’ Donuts: Some Dunkin’ Donuts stores have free Wi-Fi. You can find out if your local store does by visiting the website for your local Dunkin’ Donuts. You might need to ask a DD staffer to find out the name of the network.
  4. Panera Bread: Panera bread offers free Wi-Fi at all its restaurants for customers. 
  5. Local businesses: It’s always great to patronize local businesses. Find out what local businesses have free Wi-Fi, and while you’re there, buy an item or two to support them. [Ed. note: you might even uncover a story idea in the process!]

Tim Sohn is a freelance writer and editor based in Shohola, Pa. He focuses on technology and social media. Follow him on Twitter @editortim, connect with him on LinkedIn, and visit his website, TimothyJSohn.com.

Comments

  1. Dare I say this?
    And McDonald’s.

  2. Aren’t you glad Starbucks stopped charging for WiFi? Tim, I’ve been in your very situation once too often, and I’ve had my back-up plan in place. Panera has softer chairs, but Starbucks is much closer for me. :)

    I hear you on the Lowe’s parking lot. When I lived in a rural western PA town, I had to get in the car and locate a connection anywhere I could. Usually, it was the local hamburger joint, but I hear they’ve put wireless in the local library now. That would have made my life SO much easier!

    Another thing — it’s a good excuse to use the cloud for storage. I’m saving to Windows SkyDrive and occasionally to Google Drive (formerly Docs). It’s saved my neck a few times since my desktop computer isn’t so portable.

    • Hi Lori,
      Great idea to save to Google Drive.
      I have to admit I’m skeptical about saving my work anywhere in the cloud being a journalist. But I do do it for convenience sake.

      Cheers,

      Tim

      • Susan Johnston says:

        I’ve used Google Docs (now Google Drive) for years, both as a back-up option and to collaborate on projects with others. I would encourage you to save a local copy to your computer as well, because several years ago, I temporarily lost access to a Google Doc (it happened to be the spreadsheet I use for tracking invoices and deadlines, which was a huge headache). For some reason, Google was convinced I was a spambot so for several days, it locked my Google Docs account and I couldn’t access it, even after entering my password and a CAPTCHA. Hopefully they’ve gotten better about recognizing real people vs. spambots but it was SO frustrating at the time!

  3. Here on the Cape, the libraries are quiet (except during children’s story hour) and most have had their plug-in systems updated. I know the hours each library is at its quietest, so I can move from one to the other if needed.

    If it’s at all possible, I just stay home and work in longhand.

    • Hi Devon,
      When I lived in New Mexico, I used to library-hop. I didn’t have a computer at home yet, so I would go to one library in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The only problem was that they are in the same system, and they caught on — they only allow library patrons to use one computer for a half-hour a day in the entire system.

      • Susan Johnston says:

        Tim: Didn’t realize you lived in NM! I lived in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque from 1994-2000. We had a computer at home (with dial-up, I think) but I used to love the libraries there!

  4. If it’s a real emergency, mobile internet dongles are also very handy to have for when your standard connection drops. When I used to work on a building site in the sticks outside Moscow, I used a dial-up internet dongle pilfered from a builder whenever my home connection failed (which was often). It was a lifesaver. A Starbucks wifi would’ve been preferable, mind.

  5. I haven’t had my internet go out for quite some time recently, but I do remember several days and nights when I was living in Africa, of pacing about in my pajamas waiting for the damn connection to come back on. Never occurred to me to go out and find some free (or paid) wi-fi. Huh. Perhaps I love my pajamas a little too much. But great tip for next time! Thanks.

  6. Tim, I didn’t realize DD now has free wifi. I have one just a few blocks away, much closer than the nearby Starbucks. Cool, now I have another place to go to and write!

    Thank you!

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