Well, we knew this day would come eventually. I’m just sad it’s here. Mere months after finally unblocking access to social media accounts that were hastily blocked less than two years ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is at it again, this time changing the wireless altogether, and more improtantly, who has access to it.
This is all couched in the ongoing need to “use the correct name” of the Church in everything (except for Church-owned LDS Living, which somehow gets a pass), so the beloved “LDS Access” will now be named “Liahona.” Because, you see, the wifi will guide is in the wilderness unless you tie your brother to a boat and enjoy dancing too much. There’s a metaphor in that somewhere.
Whoopie, right? So you access the new network, put in that ol’ “This is the place”-esque password or a replacement, and move on with your life, right? That’s it, right?
An official communique explaining the change also reiterates the purpose of the network—to enhance gospel learning—and goes on to explain that those accessing the network will have to agree to terms and conditions every. single. time. (OK, really once a day, but still.) According to the Church, doing so “helps manage the available bandwidth by reminding users of the network’s intended purpose and by preventing uninintentional use by devices performing automatic fundtions (such as updates) when connected to Wi-Fi [sic] upon entry to a Church building.”
Here’s a screenshot of the terms of service splash screen.
According to remarks from anonymous Church IT employees, the Church has also been concerned about businesses near meetinghouses basically selling the Church’s wifi password to customers to offer them internet. The splash screen will not require a Church login, so it’s merely a gentle reminder to ne’er-do-wells.
So the long and short of it: the Church wants to remind you to use the wifi for churchy things and also doesn’t want your phone updating apps automatically on the Church’s bandwidth. Fair enough.
To be clear, this means that you should only need to add the network and password once, but every time you log in it will be like any other guest network that’s password protected and takes you to a acceptance screen. Minor? Sure. But every second counts when you are hastily loading a Google doc for ward council!
What’s not mentioned, of course, is that even with one user, Church wifi is notoriously terrible because it is often coming from a building-wide network at roughly 20 Mbps over DSL. If you have a savvy facilities person, you might be able to juice that up to 50 Mbps, but for that many users? Bandwidth will remain a problem no matter what unless we get serious about building and renovating our buildings for the information age.
So who gets access? In theory, anyone with the password, but the letter asks that the new network password only be disseminated to “members and guests who need access to the Church network for gospel learning and instruction, to perform or support administrative functions, or to access other Church resources.” We won’t tell you what the password is, but we’ll give you a hint: it’s related to the network name.
Let’s recap. Rather than block social media apps other than Facebook, and in a glorious attempt to continue not to accidentally say “LDS” or “Mormon,” the Church is exhausting plenty of time and effort to rename wireless networks around the world and then give us passive-aggressive encouragement—via a TOS page—not to use the wifi for evil, and potentially tracking us in the process. Neat.
What a fun week for Church tech. First the Gospel Living app lands with a somewhat muted thud and now Salt Lake wants our internet!
The changes won’t take effect until April 15—tax day in the United States, of all dates—but until then, come on through Emigration Canyon and enjoy that LDS Access. If you have any questions, your longsuffering stake technology specialist can help.
A previous version of this article implied that the new terms of service page might require a Church account for login. The system requires no such login and will not track individual user data.