If you're a BT Total Broadband or BT Infinity customer, you can get free Wi-Fi from more than three million hotspot s in the UK by using BT Fon. In return, you're required to share a small portion of your home-broadband connection with other Fon users via your router. Free apps for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone make it easy to access the hotspot s on your smartphone.
You'll be opted into the service when you sign up for BT Total Broadband or BT Infinity, but if you'd prefer to stay with your current ISP, you can still join by purchasing a Fon router for £34.
Find your nearest free hotspots
JiWire offers a Free Wi-Fi Finder app for both Android and iPhone or iPad. This locates free hotspots in your area, compares their strength and guides you to their locations. You can also filter the results by venue type to exclude, for example, coffee shops or hotels.
If you're using a laptop or netbook, try Free-hotspot.com or WeFi. Alternatively, install the free program Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector, which detects wireless access points, informs you of their security status, and lets you easily connect to and disconnect from them. Grab a coffee, a pint or a burger Many of the UK's coffee-shop, fast-food and pub chains now let you browse the web wirelessly for free when you buy something to eat or drink. These include McDonald's, whose free Wi-Fi is used by more than 750,000 customers in its 1,200 restaurants across the UK, Wetherspoon and Pret A Manger. The service is usually provided by The Cloud, and once you've registered your details, you'll be able to log on instantly
Get online when you travel by train
Many rail operators now provide Wi-Fi on their trains, although this is typically only free for passengers in First Class. On Virgin Trains, prices start at £4 per hour in Standard Class, while East Coast gives you 15 minutes of free access before charging £4.95 per hour. Its better news for passengers on Chiltern Railways, which offers free Wi-Fi in all its mainline train carriages. And if you prefer to take the coach, most National Express and Greyhound routes feature free wireless internet.
Don't nick it from your neighbors
The practice of 'piggybacking' on your neighbors’ Wi-Fi is both unethical and illegal (under section 125 of the Communications Act 2003), but simple to do if they haven't secured their network. If you do take the risk, remember that it's easy to identify Wi-Fi 'leeches' by using software such as Bopup Scanner. So it's probably wiser just to ask your neighbors nicely if they mind sharing their connection.
Beware of Evil Twins
One danger to be aware of when connecting to a public hotspot is that of 'evil twin' networks. Often set up at airports, hotels and cafes, these are fake Wi-Fi hotspots that give hackers a way to steal your passwords and other private data. To stay safe, install the free program Hotspot Shield, which will hide your IP address and encrypt your data.