Marriott Fined $600,000 by FCC for Blocking Guest WiFi

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Travelers are often annoyed when they are charged for Wi-Fi in hotels, so many bring their own devices. Have you ever tried to connect and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working? Marriott was caught blocking consumer WiFi networks during an event last year at the Gaylord Opryland.

As reported by CNN,

“Marriott was charging exhibitors and others as much as $1,000 per device to access the hotel’s wireless network. Federal law prohibits people from using a device that interferes with cellular, GPS or wireless networks. The unlawful blocking isn’t “jamming” in the traditional sense, where someone uses a jammer device to block wireless signals. Instead, Marriott employees were using the hotel’s own Wi-Fi system to block other people’s hot spots, the FCC official said. Marriott must cease unlawful use of Wi-Fi blocking technology.”

Marriott released the following statement refuting any wrongdoing,

“Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft. Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers. We believe that the Gaylord Opryland’s actions were lawful. We will continue to encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking in order to eliminate the ongoing confusion resulting from today’s action and to assess the merits of its underlying policy.”

I had to laugh a little when reading Marriott’s statement, specifically the part mentioning “rogue wireless hotspots”. While I appreciate interest in protecting my personal device against cyber attacks, I’d prefer to have the choice whether or not to use my own connection if the hotel one isn’t free or fast enough for my liking.

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