Preventing Flare-Ups with Wi-Fi Hotspots
What churches should know about the legal liabilities of wireless access.

Many churches have created Wi-Fi "hotspots" to accommodate desires for continuous connection to the Internet from a growing number of members. A hotspot is a place where Internet access is available using a wireless device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Whether your church has established a Wi-Fi hotspot, or is considering doing so, there are a number of legal issues to consider.

background

There are many reasons for the popularity of hotspots in churches, restaurants, hotels, schools, libraries, and other public establishments. These include:

  • Ease. Churches can easily establish a hotspot by buying a "wireless access point" (WAP) from a local electronics store for $100 to $200. Upon installation, you have a wireless hotspot.
  • Convenience. Besides the WAP, a church usually doesn't need to acquire additional hardware or software to do this. WAPs typically connect to a wired network via a standard connection. Because these devices operate at frequencies above 2 gigahertz, they typically provide very short range communications (100 feet to 500 feet). As a result, coverage is characterized by numerous "hotspots" with a radius of several hundred feet rather than seamless coverage across a wide area.
  • Appeal. The presence of Wi-Fi may attract members of the public.
  • Loyalty. Providing this tool may prompt people to come back.

Hotspot Stats

Recent market research by In-Stat reveals that two-thirds of survey respondents said that the availability of free Wi-Fi infl uences their choice of the establishments they visit. Another 31 percent said Wi-Fi access might infl uence their choice. Only 5 percent of respondents said that Wi-Fi access would have no effect on their choice. While this survey looked at Wi-Fi hotspots maintained by commercial establishments, the results suggest that churches offering a wireless hotspot might see an increase in attendance.

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