Internet Access

As we transition to virtual learning for the rest of the semester, here are some resources to connect to the internet no matter where you are.


New state of Illinois drive up Wi-Fi map tool

The state of Illinois has developed a new drive up Wi-Fi map tool that provides users with a map of all avilable Wi-Fi hotspots. This tool includes the following information for each Wi-Fi hotspot: general instructions for using; specifics for logging in; and turn by turn driving directions through a link to Google Maps. NEW

Free and Reduced-Cost Internet Options

Although NIU does not promote or endorse any specific vendor, if you need internet access, one of these options may be right for you.

Public Wi-Fi is a “free wireless” internet connection that is usually advertised by coffee shops, restaurants, airports, hotels and many other places that usually involve travel, hospitality and food. Public Wi-Fi is either secured or unsecured.

Secured public Wi-Fi:
  • Requires password to use
  • Encrypted so that outsiders won’t be able to intercept data
  • Is the better option
Unsecured public Wi-Fi:
  • Does not require a password
  • Unencrypted so that outsiders may see, or “sniff” data
  • Susceptible to attacks/may be an elaborate ruse

Public Wi-Fi usually does not require a password and offers no protection to its users. They are also easy to “clone” and create a rogue Wi-Fi access point. A rogue Wi-Fi access point is Wi-Fi that pretends to be legitimate but is controlled by someone who wants to steal your data. There is no assurance that your data is private while using a public Wi-Fi. Read more about public Wi-Fi security(link is external) concerns and tips.

  1. Always choose secured public Wi-Fi over unsecured.
  2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect your privacy
  3. Don’t log into password-protected sites (such as banking, social media, school, etc.)
  4. Don’t shop online
  5. Turn off automatic connectivity on your device

Multiple broadband and telephone service providers have signed a pledge with the FCC to ensure that Americans do not lose their connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Keep Americans Connected Pledge reads as follows:

Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, this company pledges for the next 60 days to:

  1. Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic
  2. Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic
  3. Open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Read more about which companies have signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge.

Comcast is providing new customers 60 days of complimentary Internet Essentials service and free access to Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country to anyone who needs them - including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers.

For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, visit wifi.xfinity.com.

Spectrum is offering 60-day free service to households with students at speeds up to 100 Mbps for those who do not already have a subscription. Charter will also continue offering Spectrum Internet Assist for low-income households that offers speeds up to 30 Mbps. To enroll in the program, call 1-844-488-8395. The company said that all installation fees will be waived for new student households.

All AT&T consumer home internet wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet, can use unlimited internet data. AT&T is also offering internet access for qualifying limited income households at $10 a month through the Access from AT&T program.

Eduroam (education roaming) is a secure, network service provided on NIU campuses to provide the ability for visiting faculty and student of participating institutions to easily gain secure network access utilizing their home institution credentials. It also provides NIU faculty and students that will be visiting a participating institution the ability to pre-configure their device for eduroam access, making gaining secure access while away automatic.

View a map of where you can connect to eduroam with your NIU name.# login.

NIU provides wireless network services for NIU students, faculty, staff and guests.

  • NIUwireless: Secure Wi-Fi to be used by students, faculty, and staff
  • NIUGuest: open Wi-Fi network for guests and visitors
  • eduroam: Secure Wi-Fi network that can be used by NIU students and staff when they travel to other participating universities

It is important to understand how to set up Wi-Fi for use at home, at school, and in public places. A safe configuration is one where your data will remain private and protected when transmitted wirelessly. NIU provides a safe configuration for NIUwireless that can be used by all students, faculty and staff.

NIU users should use the encrypted Wi-Fi, NIUwireless, if possible. This network requires users to sign in with their university username and password.

Connecting to Wi-Fi at Home

Setting up secure Wi-Fi at home is easy. The first step is to change the default administrator password, which is usually not very strong.

It is also extremely important that you choose a secure encryption protocol. Encryption protocols are what protect your password, keys, data and all other types of information sent over the wireless connection. We strongly recommend using WPA-3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access III) where possible, WPA-2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II) and disabling WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) if not.

At home, we recommend that users:

  • Avoid using a router’s default admin password.
  • Create a strong, unique password for the Wi-Fi connection.
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when working remotely.
  • Disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS).
  • Use the best/latest encryption available.
  • Keep the router’s firmware updated (turn auto-updates if available).

The Wi-Fi password is a pre-shared key (PSK) that ensures the privacy and protection of your data and internet connection.

Your Wi-Fi password is important to ensure that the data flowing to and from your internet connection is secure from outsiders. It also ensures that your internet connection is private; you wouldn’t want a stranger using your internet connection!

If your Wi-Fi is not password protected or if your password is weak, a stranger can connect to your Wi-Fi router and use your internet connection, potentially even to conduct illegal activities. If this were to happen the authorities would knock on your door to ask questions.

1. Have a password.

This may be hard to believe, but many people still insist on not securing their own Wi-Fi at home. The first step to defending your data and internet connection is to set up any type of defense at all.

2. Have a strong password.

Password cracking is literally a science. A password that is difficult to guess (through social engineering and open-source intelligence gathering) and also difficult to brute force (by being long enough and relatively complex) is a strong password.

Ohio State recommends:

  • At least 8 characters long
  • A mix of CAPITALS, lowercase, numb3r5, and $ymbol$.
  • To avoid using common dictionary words such as “football” or “password”. Check the most common passwords to avoid.
  • Cycling passwords every 90-180 days (NIU's standard is to cycle passwords at minimum, in 180-day increments.)

Please note: Many routers are shipped with default passwords such as “admin” or “password.” It is important to change these defaults as soon as possible. Manufacturer specifications, including default passwords, are freely available on the internet. We recommend changing both factory passwords and the factory SSID (Service Set Identifier, or the Wi-Fi “name” that pops up when scanning for available Wi-Fi).

Also, some new routers are shipping with complex, unique passwords. It is still a good idea to change these as well as the SSID. Consult your user manual or ISP to get directions on how to change your password.

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