Getting and using free Wi-Fi in the D.C. area

Many customers expect reliable Wi-Fi connections at businesses. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — D.C.-area restaurant must-haves include good food, competitive prices, a pleasant staff and — more than ever — a reliable wireless Internet connection.

Internet accessibility is vital to an on-the-go society, and many D.C.-area customers are finding out just how important it is for businesses to offer reliable, free connections.

“[Whether] connecting on a mobile device or with a computer, free Wi-Fi is an invaluable treat and it’s an extra perk a restaurant can offer besides nice service,” says Kimberly Van Santos, the D.C. senior community manager for the review website Yelp. “Free Wi-Fi is always appreciated.”

Coffee and tea shops are hot-spots for free wireless Internet, but a growing number of businesses are joining the trend, says Van Santos.

“You’d be surprised by how many places offer free Wi-Fi,” she says.

Think outside the box when it comes to Wi-Fi destinations, Van Santos says. She suggests the lobby of D.C.’s Hotel Helix, where she enjoys cruising the web and sipping a drink during their happy hour.

There’s also D.C.’s Canal Park, which “allows nature to become your office,” she says.

“All of their benches are equipped with outlets, so you can charge and recharge your phone, laptop, fax machine, printer, scanner, and whatever technology you need at the park,” she says.

Union Market, in Northeast, is a great spot for the “mobile worker bee,” Van Santos says, with plenty of options for food.

Public libraries around the region offer free Wi-Fi for people seeking a quieter place to surf the Internet.

Van Santos should know about reliable Wi-Fi, too. She works from home and counts on businesses’ wireless Internet to do her job when she wants to escape the monotony of her home office.

Van Santos says customers using free Wi-Fi should still be mindful of the fact that they are using a service provided by a business.

She shares the following tips for Wi-Fi etiquette at businesses:

  • Make sure you’re a paying visitor.

    “These companies are offering free Wi-Fi as a courtesy to you, so make sure you order more than a soda,” she says.

  • Tip the barista, bartender or server.

    “Tipping goes a long way, especially if you work from home and you use a free Wi-Fi spot as your ongoing working space,” Van Santos says. “Get to know the people and treat them right.”

  • If you’re using an outlet, charge your device and then move so others can recharge, too.
  • If you’re going to camp out in one spot for several hours, keep the business’ atmosphere in mind. If they are busy and need the table during high-demand times, consider moving.

Yelp’s reviews can be helpful for patrons to read more about the business’ atmosphere, noise levels and dress code, Van Santos says.

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