How to Survive a Home Internet Blackout

Usually, when inclement weather hits our stretch of the Mid-Atlantic, we are lucky. At worst we’ll lose plant or two or have to fix the cord attached to the birdhouse so it will hang again. A recent Nor’easter blowing through Virginia Beach and North Carolina, however, proved near-catastrophic in the sense that we became literally incommunicado for several days. Granted, we had power and running water within hours of the storm’s end, and nobody was physically hurt. But, in this family, take away the Internet and you might as well cut off limbs.

As somebody whose work is primarily done over the Internet, I had to be creative in finding ways to maintain touch with clients and family. My pay-as-you-go cellphone sufficed when I needed to post quick updates to Twitter and Facebook to let people know I was still alive (something I couldn’t do from home, since our landline was connected to the same fiber-optic system that went down), but for serious work I knew I needed to venture out into the pine-needle strewn streets to find affordable, active WiFi access to perform urgent tasks. Depending on where you live, you might find plentiful options to accomplish this. Where I am, it did require some hunting, and I managed to store away a few leads to remember in the future if this ever happens again. But with the best wifi extender, I no longer need to go far away from my house. With this tool, my connectivity has become stronger and reliable.

Where can you go to check your online fantasy sports stats, those YouTube videos of your niece’s piano recital, or that Twitter thread on stock tips you’ve been following? Grab your laptop and take a seat in some of the top temporary WiFi rest stops.
McDonald’s – This fast-food giant pioneered WiFi accessibility in chain restaurants – guests of Ronald and friends have been able to surf the Internet while enjoying a Big Mac and fries since 2003. One thing to note about this service, however, is that it may not be free for everybody. McDonald’s WiFi service is offered through AT T;, and charges may apply if you do not belong on the right plan, or at all. Nevertheless, if you’re having trouble accessing at home and are craving a box of McNuggets, you can kill two birds (but not Birdie) here.

Starbucks – It’s not uncommon to see people sitting here all day and drinking coffee. I’ve seen people personally conduct long-distance meetings on the couch. At Starbucks you’ll find the same AT T; plan as far as wireless is concerned, but there is an opportunity to score free access. When you acquire a Starbucks card, you get two free hours of on-site wireless daily for thirty days. All you have to do is add value to the card or make a purchase once a month to keep it active.
Panera Bread – This popular fast-casual chain serves up free WiFi with their amazing soups, salads, and sandwiches. Where I go the seats are comfortable, the coffee is hot, and there’s no loud music to distract you. The only caveat to using this service is that many sites could be filtered due to objectionable/adult material, something I learned when trying to access a publisher’s website for research. So while you have the advantage of no additional charges to use the access, depending on why you need it you could be limited.

Free WiFi service around town isn’t necessarily limited to restaurants. Research your local libraries and retail malls to see what options are available, and remember to be judicious about what information you transfer. Take care not to divulge too much personal or financial information if you’re not certain the connection is secure. Otherwise, you’ll find these places and others good for temporary Internet connections when your home lines are down.