Here’s how to access free or low-cost internet in Canada during COVID-19

Not all of these options are guaranteed to work, but they could help reduce your internet bill or strain on your network

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Internet in Canada can be really pricey with most internet service providers (ISPs) offering starting plans between $30 and $50 per month. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, internet access is more essential than ever.

Plus, with everyone staying home, your existing internet service may not be enough to handle all the extra users in your house. Upgrading your plan can be really expensive, if not impossible right now with everything going on.

For those who need it, there are a few ways to get cheap or even free internet in Canada. However, many of the solutions have limitations or are much harder to take advantage of while practicing social distancing and stay-at-home measures. That said, these could be helpful ways to get connected in a pinch.

Free Wi-Fi hotspots

If your home network is overloaded with all the extra traffic and you live in an urban area, you may be able to hook onto a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot.

Several Canadian ISPs offer access to internet through hotspots. Bell, for example, operates hotspots in Indigo, McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s. Even if the locations near you are closed, the hotspot will likely still be running.

Alternatively, both Shaw and Telus operate hotspots around the country. You can find hotspot locations for Shaw here and for Telus here. Shaw recently opened up its ‘Go’ Wi-Fi network to non-subscribers to help people stay connected during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Further, many Canadian cities have municipally-operated Wi-Fi networks as well. You can find a full list of those networks here.

If you’re not close enough to one of these locations to get a reliable signal, you could also pick up a long-range Wi-Fi antenna. While we haven’t tested any, you may be able to find one that works for you on Amazon. We don’t recommend you leave your house to try and connect to one of these hotspots since you may put yourself at risk of catching COVID-19.

Low-cost internet

Some Canadian ISPs also offer low-cost internet packages for low-income families. While there may be some hoops to jump through in order to qualify, those that do could be eligible for internet access that costs just $10 per month.

For starters, Telus’ ‘Internet for Good’ program offers speeds of up to 25Mbps and up to 300 gigabits (Gb) of data per month for $9.95. It’s only available to Canadians who receive the child benefit and have incomes under $31,120 per year. You can learn more about Internet for Good on Telus’ website.

It’s worth noting that Telus also waived fees for Internet for Good customers for two months due to COVID-19.

Rogers also offers a ‘Connected for Success’ plan for subsidized tenants and members of housing partners across Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. The company says it has more than 340 housing partners in the program along with over 250,000 eligible homes. Internet plans cost $9.99 per month and include 25Mbps download speeds, 5Mbps upload speeds and 100GB of monthly usage with no overage fees.

You can learn more about Connected for Success, check if you live in an eligible housing complex and apply on Rogers’ website.

Finally, the federal government offers a ‘Connecting Families‘ program aimed at getting Canadians on the maximum child benefit on internet that costs less than $10 per month. However, you’ll need a letter from the government in order to apply for the program. If you have that letter, you can apply here. If not, you can learn more about the program on the government’s website or call the government at 1-800-328-6189 and ask about the Connecting Families initiative.

Some ISPs participating in the program, like Shaw, offered Connecting Families customers a two-month credit on their internet bill because of COVID-19.

Source: PCMag