Cities With the Best WiFi [with Infographic]

wifi coverage in the us

“Wi-Fi everywhere” may have seemed like an unlikely possibility several years ago, as outdoor and city-wide Wi-Fi networks were plagued by construction delays, shaky service and equipment that quickly became obsolete. But with the continued introduction of free Wi-Fi networks in businesses, such as coffee shops and restaurants, and large-scale public Wi-Fi access areas, it feels as if free Wi-Fi is … well, everywhere.

The idea of “Wi-Fi everywhere” is especially applicable and important to owners of smartphones. Not only can smartphone owners save money on data downloads by using a Wi-Fi network instead of a cellular network, but they also can contribute to the idea of “Wi-Fi everywhere” by turning the smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Making Use of Wi-Fi

Owners of smartphones will appreciate the ability to make a connection to a free Wi-Fi network for one primary reason: Using Wi-Fi to download data doesn’t count against your data limits for your cellular contract. You can even set up some smartphones to only make use of certain apps when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, turning off the app whenever the smartphone is using a cellular network.

When using your smartphone to access a public Wi-Fi network, you do have to take precautions to ensure the safety of the data you’re sharing over the network. If you don’t sign into a VPN or SSH server when accessing the public Wi-Fi network, hackers could intercept your data, usernames and passwords because of the lack of encryption on the data.

Public Wi-Fi Options

Finding a free public Wi-Fi network that your smartphone can use is easier than ever. Many cities have unveiled large-scale public Wi-Fi networks, as discussed in the infographic included here, and many more cities have created plans to create new free public Wi-Fi networks. Here are eight of the most recent announcements:

  1. Cambridge. The University of Cambridge in the UK has expanded its Wi-Fi service to provide coverage in certain areas of its home city.
  2. Kansas City. The city is offering free Wi-Fi at selected bus stops and on buses.
  3. Mountain View. Google’s reconfigured public Wi-Fi in its hometown of Mountain View, Calif., should be up and running again soon.
  4. New York City. Some underground subway stations now have Wi-Fi access.
  5. San Francisco. The city has added new free Wi-Fi services in public parks, and a state-of-the-art service is available at the 49ers new NFL stadium.
  6. San Jose. City officials bill San Jose’s public Wi-Fi as the fastest in the country, and it serves the downtown area.
  7. Santa Clara. This California city is combining its municipal Wi-Fi network with smart grid technology.
  8. Tampa. City officials have announced plans to provide free Wi-Fi in public parks.

Wi-Fi Tethering

Another option for fulfilling the “Wi-Fi everywhere” mantra is to create your own Wi-Fi network. Smartphones can be turned into Wi-Fi hotspots using a process called smartphone tethering.

You’ll want to make sure you create your tethered smartphone Wi-Fi network that includes a password, or anyone within range of your smartphone will be able to use your tethered Wi-Fi network. And that can become a significant problem because data downloaded over the tethered network will count against your cellular contract data limits.

If you’re allowing unauthorized users to tie into your smartphone’s Wi-Fi hotspot and rack up data downloads on your cell plan, it’s going to cost you money in the long run. Keeping safety in mind first is always a good idea when working with new wireless networks.

wifi coverage infographic