I’m sure logging into their internet connection from my home wasn’t exactly what these companies had in mind when they announced “free internet,” but hey, it seemed like an open invitation! So I accepted them. There are actually three businesses that I can log into from home that advertise free internet. The closest one is just over a half mile away, the other two are a few tenths further away.

Now you’re probably thinking … these guys must have a powerful router for me to pick up a WIFI signal from so far away. The truth is; they do not do it. They are using standard routers connected to the internet through an ISP like everyone else. The trick to accomplishing this feat is at my end.

To get the maximum range from a WIFI connection, you need a powerful transmitter or a powerful receiver. The government limits the power of the transmitter, so to make this connection; the important thing is the design of the antenna.

This is not something new. Antenna modeling has been going on since Nikola Tesla began experimenting with wireless communication in the 1890s. WIFI is just an extension of that early technology. The range on most WIFI routers is only 300 feet. But with a good home-built antenna, this range can be greatly expanded. My connection is rock solid.

For those of you who have trouble getting a good connection from one end of your house to the other, this may seem impossible, but with a custom antenna, it is quite common. The current long distance WIFI record for non-amplified ‘standard’ routers is 238 miles! That’s just using antenna technology.

So how expensive are these antennas and where can you get them? You can buy these, but the commercial versions cost more than $ 100. The least expensive way to buy one is to build it yourself. It’s easy and will only cost you between $ 10 and $ 15. When you think about how much you spend on internet service charges each year … that’s a drop in the bucket.

There are two types of WIFI antennas that you can build … Yagi and Waveguide. The Yagi is quite complicated for a beginner. The waveguide, or antenna, is something a ten-year-old can build in one afternoon. Most of it is a can and a USB Internet adapter.

Of course, the can must be of a certain size and shape, and the USB adapter must fit into it exactly in the right place for it to work properly. But that’s not a problem if you can follow simple directions. It is also easy to increase the power of this antenna by adding additional pieces. It is the advanced designs that are the most interesting.

The best place to find building instructions and more on WIFI antennas is to log into Amazon’s online book store and type “FREE Internet” into your search engine. Several books will appear showing you exactly how to build these and even more powerful WIFI antennas. Book prices range from $ 5 to $ 20. The books at the top are the most popular.

Not only was it a fun project for the afternoon, but I imagine it will save me around $ 500 a year from now on. Or at least until they accept the “FREE Internet” registration!