Photo Courtesy of the Alaska Library Association
Know Which Businesses Offer It
While lots of businesses offer free Wi-Fi, some require passwords (which they rarely change) and others don’t. For instance, the Starbucks on Pardall requires no password for usage, but the Best Western on State Street does (but they also readily give it out). Make sure you always get connection information from every business you go to and keep it saved in your device’s connection settings. This way, as you move about Santa Barbara, your device will hop from one connection to the next, leaving you with few dead spots.
Use a Wi-Fi App or Database
A great one to try is Wi-Fi Finder. This app shows you where Wi-Fi is located with little blips on Google Maps; the blip includes data on how strong the connection is. The best part? The app works offline (because what good is a Wi-Fi finder when you need Internet to find the Internet?).
Technically, this isn’t free; you already pay for it with your tuition, but that gives you all the more reason to utilize it. Just use your student ID username and password to log in (the same you use for GOLD). UCSB Wi-Fi covers most of the campus, but there are some dead spots to be wary of. Girvetz, South Hall and IV Theater are unpredictable and sometimes pull a great connection, yet other times not at all.
Bum Off Your Neighbors
Before you pay the 50 plus per month for Wi-Fi from COX, try searching for usable networks. Most are locked, but with the high density of people in IV, odds are someone leaves their Wi-Fi network open. Even if they don’t, you’ll see some funny network names! Another—and more responsible—plan is to share a Wi-Fi connection with your immediate neighbors. While not free, you will save money.
Connect With Your Phone
The caveat to this one is, to work, you must pay for Internet on your phone, but it will save you the price of Internet on your computer. You can turn your phone into a hot spot or use your phone to tether. Tethering requires some prep work, but once you do it, you will never be without a connection. iPhone users will have to use a method called jail-breaking and Android users will have to root (unless they use USB tethering, which can be done without root access). Google these methods for derailed guides and how-tos.
In Santa Barbara, there are lots of ways to access Wi-Fi for free, especially if you aren’t picky about where you are. If you are willing to move around a bit, you should never have to pay for Wi-Fi again. Of course, you sacrifice having Wi-Fi in the comfort of your home. While not impossible, it’s trickier (and often sketchier) to get Wi-Fi for free at home. However, if you work with your neighbors and pull the resources you already have—like your phone—you can still save a lot of money.