Over the past couple of days I’ve been thinking about Wi-Fi being provided free (secure and filtered) by churches and Christians. The idea came to me when I noticed a guy outside of my house in the cold, winter weather accessing my wireless with some kind of hand held device. I was thinking that it would be cool if people were able to access a connection for free BUT there would always be one pop-up at the beginning of the access…sort of a “provided by” message along with some other message. like info about a church or group or the gospel message for that matter, or maybe a link with info on donating to specific charities or disaster relief. I would think that would be only a minor inconvenience if one was able to access the internet for free. What are you’re thoughts on that?
I confess my first thought would not have been a charitable one if I’d seen someone outside my house trying to access my wifi. First I’d think best of luck and then I’d instantly change my pre-shared key . Me, paranoid?
But to answer the question the answer I gave was “I love the idea” … Those of you that are regulars here will know that my pastor is a techno luddite. Sure he uses computers and email but that is where it stops. He doesn’t ‘get’ Facebook or Twitter and has more than once stated from the front on a Sunday that “you won’t find me on there”.
Every time I hear this refrain I throw my arms up in despair and wonder if I’m forever doomed to be in a church that wont use my God breathed talents and skills in a fuller way than just as ‘tech support’. But I digress. The idea of wifi in the church is a fabulous idea and for us then to provide a value added service to our local community would be a great outreach tool.
Once wifi is setup one could do things like:
- advertise free Wi-Fi in your coffee mornings / shop
- provide after school clubs offering free wi-fi
- allow church members to access the net via their smartphones, etc for free
- allow visiting speakers or business people access to the web without touching your own network
- and so on …
The one service I know quite well and have looked at is ZoneCD – or at least that was their name. I see they are now called ‘PUBLICip‘ (link) – they provide a Free and Pro service with the free easily covering most needs. In short they provide an individual build of a *nix with added functionality. You as the user have to provide a PC (doesn’t have to be state of the art either) with two network cards and a wifi access point either as a standalone AP or as part of a router.
It includes filtering by utilising DansGuardian, an open source web filter, as well as many other features. the idea works by the PC becoming a firewall and filter with one NIC linking to your new wifi AP and the other to your established router / internet connection. The only thing one needs to be clear on is making sure the wifi AP uses a different IP range – beyond that the process is relatively straight forward.
I’m sure there are other services out there that do a similar offering and I’d love to hear about them? I did find the Wifi Free Spot site but they are more informational than actual practical build your own set up.
Secondly, what other uses could the wifi be put to? Giving folks the ammo to take into battle with the leaders can only be a good thing – so come on, get creative folks and let me know your ideas?