Despite the flurry of stories in the media lately about the supposed decline of freebies and free services on the Web, we've found that Net users today in fact have a broader range of freebies to choose from than ever before. The one exception to this is the category of free Internet access providers. The number of free Web access providers has declined sharply in recent years, as the industry has seen a number of players consolidate or go out of business. However, there are still a number of free ISPs in the U.S. (although most providers no longer offer free, unlimited usage). And free Net access providers continue to thrive in other countries, particularly in Europe. We don't recommend any of these services for use as your primary Web connection, if you need solid, reliable service. Still, the free services reviewed below are handy for use as a backup service, if your primary provider experiences downtime. They also provide a convenient way for you to get online, if you're on the road.
Are you looking for a free (or a low-cost) Internet service provider? A useful resource, Freedomlist reviews over 200 free and low-cost ISPs from 50 countries. Each listing includes a description of the service, as well as users' comments. The site also includes a forum about various ISP issues.
This site offers a searchable database, complete with reviews and ratings, of free ISPs, including local ISPs, in the U.S. and Canada. Besides free services, the site also takes a look at discount ISPs.
This service offers subscription-free Internet access for those in the United Kingdom. 1-2-Free ISP UK offers free dial-up Net access, and supports both the Windows and Mac operating systems. (U.K. only).
This service offers anonymous, speedy and reliable free dial-up Internet access for U.K. residents. It's suitable for people who surf the Web occasionally (or who travel frequently on business). You simply connect to the Internet from any U.K. landline via an 0845 number.(U.K. only).
Are you getting your money's worth from your Internet connection? This popular free service lets you easily and quickly test the speed of your Internet connection. To use the service, simply click the "Begin Test" button. This service is internationally available.
NetZero offers you up to 10 hours per month of free Net access in exchange for displaying ad space in your browser. They provide local access numbers to most major and many medium-sized cities in the U.S. Note: to sign up for service here, scroll down the page and look for the "Free Dial-Up (10 hours a month)" link. U.S. only. (For Windows).
One of the two major players still offering free Net access in the U.S. (along with NetZero), Juno offers service at connection speeds up to 56K. The service is advertisement-supported.
We've had a few complaints from our visitors about Juno's difficult-to-close, obtrusive ad windows.
In recent months, it's become increasingly difficult to connect to Juno's free service during normal business hours. If you need a steady day-time Net connection, you'll have to look elsewhere for a free ISP.
This handy directory serves up an up-to-date roundup of WiFi hotspot locations that offer free wireless Internet access. Most of the listings here are in the U.S., but there are also listings for locations in Canada, Europe, Asia and elsewhere.