The creation of public internet access facilities is one of the principal policy instruments adopted by governments in addressing ‘digital divide’ issues. The lack of plans for ongoing funding, in North America at least, suggests that this mode is regarded mainly as transitional, with private, home-based access being perceived as superior. The assumption apparently is that as domestic internet penetration rates rise, public access facilities will no longer be needed. Central to this issue are the varied characteristics of publicly provided and privately owned access sites and their implications for non-employment internet activities. What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of these two access modes? More fundamentally, how do people conceptualize public and private spaces and how does this perception influence their online activities? Finally, why do people choose one over the other, and how do they navigate between the two? This article attempts to answer these questions by drawing on data generated within the Everyday Internet Project, a ‘neighborhood ethnography’ of internet usage. It argues that the conventional view of private and public access facilities as immiscible, fixed alternatives is inadequate. Rather than ‘pure’ types, they are better understood as offering hybrid spaces whose identity and character are fluid, perceived differently by individuals in light of the activities being performed, life experiences, infrastructure and architecture. The picture emerging from our study is one where public and private access modes intertwine with each other in a variety of ways, their combination offering significant additional value for many users. From a public policy perspective, these findings suggest that if universal access is to be achieved, there is a continuing need for publicly supported broad-spectrum facilities with integrated technical support and learning opportunities, even if domestic penetration rates approach that of the telephone.