Closing the Digital Divide: 5 Ways to Get Free Internet Access

Photo by Superfem

Today is Blog Action Day and this year's focus is on poverty. As the techy type, I'll be focusing on how the intersections of technology and poverty. But be sure to catch the many other angles of poverty covered today on TreeHugger. Check the end of the post for links to all our Blog Action Day posts.

Only about 62% of US households have computers. Only about 54% have high speed Internet access. And of people who don’t have a high school diploma or GED, Internet usage sits at about 15.5%.

In an age where job postings, social services, unemployment assistance and other government services have been digitized, lacking the access and ability to use the Internet can be a significant disadvantage.

So we gathered up a few ways that people who can’t afford the Internet are able to gain access and utilize the resources available online. If you don’t have a computer
Most local libraries offer computer labs with free Internet access. Many times there is a use limit of 30 or 60 minutes. But for many libraries, though, there is unlimited access.

Community and youth centers sometimes have free computer labs for pubic use. Additionally, some local non-profit organizations centered around outreach for low-income people and families will have computers available with free Internet access for connecting with job opportunities, training and social services.

If you have a computer
If you have a laptop, you can head off to a Wi-Fi hotspot, usually at cafes, parks, near libraries, universities and college campuses and hotels. It'd be nice to be able to sidle up to any lamppost, but often you can grab a bench near the hotspot so you don’t have to buy a coffee to use the connection, making it truly free. The Wi-Fi Hot Spot List is a directory letting you know where you'll be able to snag free access.

Getting free Internet is pretty easy – much easier if you have access to the Internet in the first place. So you might need to use a free Wi-Fi spot to check out these additional resources.

There are still a wide range of companies that provide free Internet connections. NetZero provides up to 10 hours a month of free Internet, and All Free ISP connects people with various free Internet service providers in their areas. Free Internet is a global website with connections to providers in 50 countries.

In a Pinch
Public Web Stations works to set up free computer stations in areas that have suffered natural disasters, such as after Hurricane Katrina. They help to connect people to the online resources they need to get through the aftermath.

More on Internet Connections:
Solar Wi-Fi To Bring Internet to Developing Countries
Solar Powered WiFi Repeater
Solar-powered Wi-Fi Lampposts
More on Blog Action Day 2008:
Fuel Poverty in UK, Government Faces Court Action VIDEO
Four Argentinean Design Projects Helping those in Need
British PM Putting Unemployed To Work Insulating Attics
Five Poverty-Fighting Clean Water Projects and Designs
Apple Day at Roots and Shoots

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