We are well into the 21st century now and I think we can all agree that Wi-Fi is important. AT&T claims to be upgrading infrastructure in New York, but let’s be honest- to get a solid download speed on your iPhone (or Blackberry… do they have Wifi?) in the heart of Manhattan, you are far better off if you find a Wi-Fi hotspot to log onto. Luckily, New York City has a ton of free wireless available. Of course, you can also just wander down a street until you find someone’s open network… but chances are if someone has left their network open in New York, there are 75 other people already on it, torrenting the latest episode of Man Men.
Starbucks and McDonald’s
Of course, Starbucks and McDonald’s provide trusty go-to options. They are the defacto public restrooms for the city and now that all of their locations also provide free Wi-Fi, you have all your basic necessities in one place – food, internet and toilets. Both of these places generally have impressive speeds, but if you are in a packed Starbucks near NYU, around Union Square, in the Lower East Side or any other area that fills up with students and creatives, expect your connection to slow to a crawl.
Over the past 2 years, the city has been rolling Wi-Fi coverage out to dozens of city parks. Soem of these are supported by the Parks Department and others by groups that support individual parks. The good news is that no matter who put it there, you can find Wi-Fi from Bryant Park to Thompkins Square to Astoria Park, you can find decent download/upload speeds in some surprising places.
Bookstores, Grocery Stores, Libraries and Museums
The variety of places offering WiFi is ever-increasing. Most bookstores you pass will probably have WiFi, though unless it is a Barnes & Noble, you might have to ask for the password. Even grocery stores are getting in on the action- Whole Foods has some blazing fast speeds at most of their locations, but again, be wary of the studious crowd procrastinating with monkey-on-unicycle videos via YouTube. Most popular museums also offer an opportunity to snag some bandwidth- the Met, MoMA and New Museum have good coverage, at least in the lobby. And of course, New York Public Libraries. Say what you will about books dying under the crushing efficiency of Kindles, the NYPL has been working hard the past few years to stay relevant, and they are hitting the ball out of the park. Some of the fastest wireless you are going to find for free will be at a table inside a public library- at some locations, you can even find ethernet ports to plug into, and of course, every library has a ton of power outlets.
Coffee Shops and Cafes (other than Starbucks)
Of course, most people’s go-to option is their favorite cafe or coffee shop, myself included. The number of cafe’s with Wi-Fi is astounding, but most of the time you will need to ask for the password when buying a coffee. I always try and buy a coffee for every hour I use their network, since I am taking up space and that bandwidth isn’t free… but also make sure you ask if they have Wi-Fi before you buy anything. City-wide go-to spots include Dunkin Donuts, Cosi, Whichcraft, Guy and Gallard, but don’t be confined to the franchises, you can find wireless at tons of cafes.
Check out some of these sites or tools that can help you find the nearest Wi-Fi connection:
- OpenWiFiNYC.com – a site with a human-verified list of hotspots around the city. Also provides speed ratings, etc.
- Wi-Fi Finder – a mobile app available for iPhone or Android that finds hotspots near you. Created by jiwire, it is pretty reliable
- WeFi – A community-created map of hotspots across the US
- NYCWireless.net – a nonprofit that focuses on spreading Wi-Fi in the city, a good resource for new locations and news
The City also maintains a database of active Wi-Fi locations, though I’m not certain how often it is updated. All of the locations they have available via their open source data are seen on this map:
What is your solution for Wi-Fi on the go? Any go-to spots?