Where to get free computer and internet access in Philadelphia

Having computer access and reliable internet is a necessity for nearly all aspects of life — applying for jobs, filing taxes, even going to school or work — and it can be challenging if you live in a household without a computer and internet. In Philadelphia, this is a reality for many.

According to recent Census Bureau statistics, Philadelphia ranks as having the fourth-highest percentage of households without internet access out of the country’s largest cities — meaning more than 98,000 homes don’t have access.

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“Even prior to the pandemic, in order to apply for a housekeeping job at area hotels, you needed to apply online … What were people [without computer access] to do?” says Lori Morse, a library supervisor at the Parkway Central Library.

In Philly, there are programs designed to help, including at community centers and libraries, and programs where you can get a computer, or internet access, for free.

Here’s where you can use a computer for free in Philadelphia and some programs to get a free computer of your own.

You can use a computer with internet access at any Free Library of Philadelphia branch if you have a library card. Most libraries even offer printing and copying services at 25 cents per page. Anyone who lives, works, pays taxes, or goes to school in Philly can get a library card at no cost. Additionally, Pennsylvania residents can get a Philadelphia library card. You can sign up for a card online, or go to your nearest branch to have a librarian help you sign up. Check out our guide to all the things your library card gets you. The full list of Free Library locations is available here.

If you’re looking for a job, trying to start a business, or find a new career, the Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC) offers a variety of services and learning opportunities, such as career workshops, job training sessions, and free headshots. Located on the ground floor of the Parkway Central Library, the BRIC is open to everyone, whether you are an experienced entrepreneur or starting your job hunt for the first time. The center has three computers, and there are 10 more in the main part of the library.

? 1901 Vine St. ? 215-686-8663 ? libwww.freelibrary.org/programs/bric ? @freelibrary

Using a computer at the South Street Business Center isn’t free, but it is an affordable option. The center’s main business is printing and shipping, but also has a computer available for rent by the minute. Email ahead of time if you want to print, but if you need to draft an email, send an application, or check social media, you can find a computer here in a pinch. Computer rentals are available for 25 cents per minute — a good option if you need to do something quick online, but don’t go here to fill out a lengthy job application — 25 cents per minute can add up quickly.

? 744 South St., ? 215-592-8000 ✉️ [email protected] ? www.southstreetbusinesscenters.com

There are more than 20 public computer labs across the city, most of which are run by the city’s Parks and Recreation department. While you can find the full list of the community centers with free computers on their website, we’ve listed some here as well.

Located in West Philly, the Christy Rec Center has a free public computer lab in addition to its gym, pool, multipurpose rooms, and hydration station.

? 728 S. 55th St., ? 215-685-1997 ? parksrecheroes.org/sites/christy

The East Passyunk Community Center is home to a computer lab with six workstations for community use. The computer lab is open select hours Monday through Saturday. According to John Medica, the director of the East Passyunk Community Center, these hours may change, so it’s a good idea to call ahead of time.

? 1025 Mifflin St., ? 215-685-0008 ? www.eastpassyunkcommunitycenter.org

Located in North Philly, the Athletic Recreation Center has a public computer center with 10 computers. It’s often busy, so you may need to wait to snag a spot.

? 1400 N. 26th St., ? 215-978-2709 ? phila.gov/programs/rebuild/project-sites/athletic-recreation-center

This center, only a few blocks from Eastern State Penitentiary, has a public computer lab with more than a dozen computers.

? 1737 Francis St., ? 215-685-2762 ? phila.gov/parks-rec-finder/#/location/francisville-recreation-center

The South Philly Rec center was renovated in 2015, and includes plenty of computers inside their lab for public use. The center also offers tech help for seniors, as well as help with resume writing, and job-hunting workshops.

? 2100 S. 24th St., ? 215-685-1898 ? phila.gov/parks-rec-finder/#/location/thomas-b-smith-recreation-center

Where to get a free computer in Philly

Free computers from the Free Library

The Free Library of Philadelphia gives out free tablets and wifi hotspots as part of the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund to help remove obstacles caused by the pandemic.

While free wifi services will run out this June, you can pay to extend the service at a low rate. And the devices can remain checked out indefinitely. According to Morse, there are still a limited number of tablets and wifi hotspots available.

Email [email protected], or speak with your local librarian to learn more.

Other programs

Additionally, you can get free computers from national programs, including:

  • The Salvation Army gives out free used computers in limited quantities. Call your local location ahead of time to ensure they have computers available.
  • Computers with Causes is a national program that accepts computer donations and repurposes them for those in need. While anyone can apply for a computer, students, teachers, military veterans, and the elderly are given priority.

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